On April 14 the real story was how suddenly maybe 700.000 chavista not only did not vote for the appointed heir, but crossed the line. We are talking here of almost 4% of the electorate.
If you have any knowledge in electoral and political history you know that a 4% that voted for you consistently since at least 2004 are not going to come back to the fold just like that. At best they will abstain from voting but will not come back until the other side has had the chance to rule for a bit and mess things up on its watch. It is simply the law of political exhaustion that makes even successful governments peter out and lose power in the end. In general those who postpone such fate are ruling in a coalition which allows for more political regeneration, if anything because voters swing through coalition partners, until eventually they try new pastures. One of the most successful electoral democracy careers were the Social Democrats in Sweden, holding office for decades, with an arguable success. And yet, eventually, percentage point by percentage point, they eroded until one day they were ousted.
After 14 years of Chavez rule it was clear that this one was suffering similar erosion. It was somewhat hidden due to the personal cult of the leader, but also to a blunt clientele system allowing for vote buying, blackmailing and outright cheating as needed. But nevertheless when you plot Chavez “personal vote” you can see that slowly but surely that one degraded.
In the graph below I have plotted the percentile result of elections when Chavez was himself on the ballot, including the one from last Sunday because, let’s face it, it was all about Chavez inside chavismo: loyalty, heirlooms and whatnot. In addition to presidential vote I have also included the referenda vote because all of them were special requests of Chavez himself. I added a trend line.
|Chavez percentile variations in 14 years|
First, your may be surprised by the bump in April 1999. We could argue that this was the peak of chavismo even though that referendum to request a constitutional assembly was basically unopposed (1). I suppose that we would not want to include that point but the only change it would do on that graph is to flatten slightly the trend line. No matter what, according to that trend line next election the opposition is going to win. Period. Unless the opposition self-destruct though this applies equally to chavismo.
What is also interesting in this graph is that we have what we could consider two plateaus. Once Chavez was reelected in July 2000 he kept a safe 60% until 2006. Other elections in those years certainly reflected this. But after the fiasco of 2007, Chavez lost a portion of the electorate, some migrating to the opposition (PODEMOS). His new plateau at 55% made him more vulnerable and he did poorly at local elections where he could get solid majorities only through crass gerrymandering. Last Sunday we experienced yet another cataclysm for chavismo, probably worse than in 2007, and this time around the plateau may well drop more than a mere 5%.
But this is not the only problem for chavismo: a little bit of unity could minimize losses and ensure a short stay in power for the opposition, at worst. Unfortunately, deprived of its leader to herd the sheep, it will become clear that there are different breed of sheep, and maybe even a few goats in the herd.
Chavismo has always been an alluvial formation, where new layers are deposed where old layers are washed away. For example in 1998 and 1999, a large portion of the middle class did vote for chavismo, but by 2004 the middle class had been lost. Until 2000 at least, Chavez had not secured the massive support of lower classes which kept voting in part for AD in local elections, until the 2003 misiones put an end to it. But after 2007 educated lower classes, those with trades, started deserting chavismo, a trickle maybe, but a steady one.
Certainly there is no way to measure the different groups within chavismo. In the graph below I tried to represent the chavismo cloud and what is inside it, hidden from view to the casual observer. There are 4 major groups of power, two large ones, fascists and communists which originate from “resentimiento social” (social resentment) and doctrinaire left which has been growing through the years, courtesy of Cuban training. Although there is an actual communist party inside the coalition this one has failed to grow while inside the PSUV there is a radical left that truly wants to end private property, etc. Those two I label communists while fascist are those who simply like to exert their power and prerogative. There is a subset where both cross. Yes, they cross, in what I will call the naked totalitarians like Diosdado Cabello.
|The chavismo cloud composition|
The other two power group are the army. A portion of it is outside that cloud of course, as there are some “fascist” outside of that cloud too inside "the opposition". What I represent here is what is a rather small group, after all, but with the true power. Except that they cross over to fascism, totalitarians, communists (probably the least, but what do we know?) and some outside there but inside chavismo. The bolibourgeois, those who have become immensely rich under chavismo, have a spearhead that goes into fascism, all the way to touch totalitarianism, in their willingness to preserve their privileges (drug traffickers?).
Finally, there are those who are not ideologically formed, who are inside chavismo by accident or by need, hangers-on and what not which I list through the cloud outside of the power groups because they really count for little except at election time when they are courted, bribed, blackmailed, rewarded, whatever.
Certainly we have not access to the actual proportions since to begin with no one is going to recognize that they are fascist even if in the facts, from Jorge Rodriguez to Diosdado Cabello they fit the bill. But I think that I do get somehow to a representation of the power “balance” inside chavismo. Thus you can appreciate the complexity of chavismo coalition that only Chavez could maintain because he had a unique knack of being a little bit of something to everyone.
These days are over. Now chavismo has entered into a deep crisis which explains the erratic, threatening, violent pulses that we have been seen since last Sunday. It is going to get worse as the Cubans at best control the Communists when they used to control all through Chavez. I am not sure they are realizing this. The result we are seeing it played under our eyes this week, a fast unraveling, that can be stopped, briefly only, through some form of coup.
1) In April 1999, only 10% voted no to a new constitution Considering the abstention that time it is quite possible that the 10% represented no more than 7% of the country. I am proud to have been in that group, those that have truly said NO since 1992 to Chavez. Who can match that, voting in Venezuela? :)
Goes to tell you what a long march the opposition has had to suffer.......