Sunday, December 04, 2005

The election day report

This post will be updated through the day as I am covering the voting process.

Last night

We did not sleep well. All through the night there were occasional loud firecrackers. Around 3 or 4 AM there caravans of people circulating with military like clarion, wake up music if you like. At some point in my slumber I sensed them so loud, that I woke up to turn on the TV: I thought that perhaps the elections had been postponed and some people were celebrating. No such luck, it was indeed some chavistas rousing up San Felipe at 4:45 AM...

6: 30 AM

I went to bed very late, unable to sleep with the tension. I was not allowed to properly sleep. And the break of light did find me up at my window watching the voting center in front of my house.

No one!!!!

I remember when on election day of August 15 2004 at 6 AM the line was already going around the block with people waiting to vote!!! We got the answer, the abstention today WILL BE MASSIVE. In fact I stayed at the window to watch until I came to post this, look the time stamped below. I saw the following: 1 voter coming, and he knew the people manning the polling station. Only a couple of people coming to supervise, one of them with the red hat of one of the chavista candidate. Oddly, everyone seems to know everyone, which shows how well the CNE staff is now "recruited" among, should we call them that way, ‘safe personnel’.

Ooooh! I feel like an early breakfast and a little drive around! But I am just so tired that I think I will try to catch an extra snooze.

7:33 AM

A quick TV round up. You know things are not going well for chavismo: the state TV is passing a report on the Recall Election instead of showing lines at polling stations.

7:50 AM

For objectivity. The school in front of my house voted 70% against Chavez in 2004. Thus what I can infer is that the oppositon WILL STAY home. So far I cannot say whether chavistas are voting well, but right now even that "legendary" 30% will be hard to match across the street. For the record, downtown San Felipe voted to oust Chavez 55% in 2004.

9:16 AM

So Jorge Rodriguez voted as a movie star. More cameras seemed to follow him than a normal candidate. All the people at the tables embraced him, cheered him, hugged him. Well, they do owe him their jobs and I am pretty sure someone made sure that the voting center of Rodriguez would be "safely" staffed. It is just hilarious! Too bad he seemed the only one voting there.....

I have not napped yet. In fact I have not had breakfast yet. I was on the phone quite a lot, and watching the news some. Now with my first mug of coffee my brain is clearing some.

Through my cordless I got all my calls while watching through the window who was getting in and out. Well, my statistics so far are that there is AT MOST one voter every 5 minutes. That is 12 voters and hour for a potential by 4 PM of 120 voters. Chavismo vote on August 2004 was 240. It is still too early to see if the trend will stay, a busload of chavistas might just come in any time soon. But after 3 hours, and considering that some of these electors must vote in order to preserve their jobs and will not vote for a Chavez candidate, the reader might start drawing its own conclusions.

10:36 AM

Damage control time. Or is that spin control? One gets easily confused.

The vice is voting and lo' and behold his tone is mollifying some. I suppose that Rangel is old enough to have learned that perhaps a monochromatic assembly might not be such a good thing. So he is saying some nice things to the opposition, hoping that tomorrow they will rethink their position, that we should sit down and talk. Then he goes on to try to minimize the effect of the huge abstention now for all to see, an abstention already visible enough that even commandeering all public transportation and making chavista go at gun point to vote might not be enough. So Rangel "relativizes" abstention. Even mentioning the midterm US elections which get les voters than the presidential!!! The US voting tradition to the rescue!!! Now I have seen it all.

But ridicule is never too far. Rangel mentions, hold tight as you will read this, the high abstention on Canada's parliamentary elections as a measure on how parliamentary elections get less votes than more important elections. I suppose he is right and I should check out the abstention rate when the Queen of Canada runs for election.

Please Chavez and Mr. vice. Hire me!!! You embarrass me!! I will allow you to do better spin!!!! Or at least more accurate...

10:51 AM

Jesse James Chacon, our "security" coup monger ministry, is trying to put some spin using the oil pipeline explosion last night in Falcon state. He says but he does not say it, using the traditional fascisto-communist double speak, to try to pin that explosion on the opposition trying to sabotage the election. As if the oppo needed an extra bomb after the nuclear political detonation of its withdrawal a few days ago.... The only thing he achieves is making people like me think that chavismo is the one that put the bomb on the oil line. Conveniently, by the way, at a place where nobody will be hurt and that could be repaired fast. Huumm...

11:26 AM

Off to check out Chruch attendance. Let's see how the plebiscite plays elsewhere than my front door.

12:13 M

The San Felipe report. Most churches were already closed so I cannot say whether the SUMATE call worked or not. The only one that was open seemed to be after the service, with some people seating at the benches. After all, San Felipe was very, very late to join the "cacerolazo" craze of the 2002-2003 conflicts so I would not expect church attendance to be particularly different than usual. It is the provinces after all, chronically behind the fashion.

Voting centers were empty. Be them pro or anti Chavez. I only saw a line of about 4-6 people at the Ravell middle school, which has become a Bolivarian school by the way. Who knows, maybe they shifted voters from other centers. That school was pro Chavez at only 40% in August 2004.

At the other side of town, in La Independencia where Chavez got 52% in 2004, the same situation than in San Felipe: light voting. I did not go into the real popular districts as I suppose voting will be closer to normal. My interest was to see whether the opposition was voting and from what I can see so far, it is not voting, and possibly only half of the chavista in the San Felipe area.

Two important reminders.

1) This is the traditional peak voting time, after Church, before lunch. Actually when I came back home there were three, 3, people checking the voter list, something I had not seen across the street during all my morning observation! Normally it is women that vote early, to get back home to fix lunch. Men start outnumbering women after 10 AM and there is a peak voting time between 10 and 1 PM. The afternoon straddlers tend to be the younger crowd. Of those with a really bad hangover from Satruday night.

2) Many opposition folks will vote anyway BECAUSE they are public employees! I know of several cases where the boss came and said that whomever did not vote might see his/her job at risk (My S.O. is one of those). the problem is that we get or pinkie dip in ink and that ink stays usually for up to 3 days. So Monday morning WE WILL ALL KNOW WHO VOTED AND WHO DID NOT. Public employees henceforth must go and vote since they will not be able to hide their pinkie for a whole day (you can hide your stained or clean pinkies from your neighbors, but you cannot hide it from your employers). Of course, in a preemptive move the labor ministry set a hot line to "protect" workers from the private sectors that might be "forced" not to vote. I wonder how come my S.O. did not think of calling them to complain about the pressure to vote at work. Things that make you go "hummmm".

Thus, do not let yourself be fooled by the media, be they the state ones minimizing abstention to ridiculous extremes or the private ones that might be temtpted to pass slow hours for peak hours. However this blogger can vouch now for San Felipe: it is likely to be even less voters than last August, at least at this time of day. Heck, I was with my camera, all dressed and no picture to take!

12:41 M

From an usually good source. They are starting carrying people to voting places, even foreigners who are paid and quickly issued an ID card. Whether it is true it is an amusing topic of conversation for lunch.

13:11 PM

Breaking, AGAIN, all electoral rules Chavez is speaking from his voting center, in front of his entourage (he always travels with an entourage that includes people that one wonders what the heck they are doing there). His political speech, with two lies in the 2 minutes I could stomach it, should be contrasted with the interdiction to show empty voting stations made to the private media (one Globovision reporter was cut short as he was panning a voting station). Mercifully Chavez is not in cadena but since he is the president, well, most media do show his speech. Better that than to incur the furies of CONATEL and the SENIAT. Democracy, freedom of speech in action. A taste of things to come.

I have a prediction that I am ABSOLUTELY SURE will happen: Chavez will not be sanctioned by the CNE whereas some private media will be. After all, it is really difficult to hide empty polling stations when personalities come to vote so with a pissed off president after a poor showing, one must appear to be doing something....

13:25 PM

If TV seems to be muzzled, newspaper web pages are not. El Universal has a "minute by minute" section Copy cats! It seems that abstention is seen everywhere. Well, in fact it seems that abstention is winning everywhere..........

14:10 PM

Report form the Red de Veedores. This an NGO that monitors Venezuelan elections and that the government tries very much to keep in check. At 11 AM they reported a couple of interesting items.

1) General delay in opening the voting stations. We had to wait 8 AM to see more than 80% of them open. This more than probably means that the plan of chavismo to throng voting stations at 5 AM with their supporters was not working. Thus the CNE served a convenient excuse, or so they think, to pass the failure on the voting centers not being open.

2) A voting rate as low as one voter every 20 minutes! In the most frequented centers the lines never passed 10 people. Also many public employees came to vote with their party clothing, a violation of the voting code that forbids any advertisement in the voting place. but heck, if Chavez can campaign at lunch time on voting day, why not wear an MVR red T-shirt!?

Are the observers watching?

Another report I received is the voting status at 11 AM of big oppo areas of Chacao and El Hatillo. At that time only 2% of Chacao had voted, and 3% of El Hatillo. This is even lower than what I expected!

Nap time, see you in an hour or so.

16:11 PM

Of course, some form of cheating had to take place. Arguing heavy rains in some areas, the CNE has extended voting hours in some districts. And reminded everyone that voting should last 10 hours so if they opened late they had to stay up late.

Sure enough, my center which was open BEFORE 6:30 AM (see time stamp) is till open EVEN THOUGH there is nobody outside. So I will assume that they did open at 6:29 and I will wait for 16:30 PM before rattling on that.... But considering all the tricks used int he past, in particular the totally unaccounted extension of voting hours on August 2005, forgive me if any declarations from La Lucena raises more suspicions than it brings comfort.

16:29 PM

While I was taking my well deserved nap (no one called for 45 minutes!) I missed the latest Iris Varela scandal.

Iris Varela, the fiery fascist (who thinks she is a Colombian FARC commie of sorts) stated that all public employees that did not go to vote should be fired. She also added that all "opposition" candidates that did not withdraw their names should be backed up by the "abandoned" oppo voters, because those were real patriots. She also said that there was no problem in campaigning on election day (I agree with her, in the US there is campaign until election day and it is an hypocrisy, but the law is the law, and since she is a representative how come she has not tried to change it?)

But her fascist comment on firing workers was bad enough that it got some reactions from chavismo who lately through Chavez has been barely milder than La Varela. Rodriguez did dare to say something to that effect. Heck, even the labor minister Iglesias, who put up a hotline for people to report when they were forced to "not" vote, had to say that the hot line could also be used for people who were forced to vote too. Ah! the irony of these fascists when they get messed up among themselves!

PS: in a normal country Varela's declarations would be enough to have her expelled from the National Assembly before she even assumes her "renewed" seat. But here, in modern day Macondo, or rather the bolibanana as Macondo is too literary and dignified a reference for what Venezuela is becoming, it seems that this type of thuggery is even encouraged. Or how can you understand that she will only receive the platitudes uttered by Iglesias or Rodriguez, without even an offical reprimand from the chairman of the Assembly? She probably was asked to say what she said, as it often seems the case. "Ah! she said that? Well, you know how she is." And voilà, case close.

16:39 PM

They are still open across the street. Officially they are now breaking the law. Should I put a complaint?

However I am already hearing fireworks and petards from the State House (about 8 blocks from home). I suppose that Gimenez party is celebrating that they beat the MVR within the chavista coalition? I also suppose that winning a seat with less than 20% of voters showing up does not detract from their sleep. But I am sure that the thugs will find an agreement among themselves.

16:59 PM

Supposedly at 5 PM all should close. We shall see.

I have been told that Chacao and El Hatillo will not reach 10% of participation.

And the London and New York consulates were empty of voters.

15:03 PM

I have just seen a car for one of the local candidates drop in front a young woman to vote. Just as I am hearing Rodriguez calling for voting tables to start closing unless there is a line of voters outside. She was let in..... And added a new meaning to a "line of voters".

15:16 PM

Stig, my Norse alter ego but with a real site to hold videos has posted the sound clip of Iris Varela fascist declaration. Priceless!

17:52 PM

OK, this has gone long enough. The voting center across my house IS STILL OPEN!!!! How can you expect folks like me not to be suspicious when an empty center is open this late, with nobody out?

So I write it loud and clear, the CNE must be up to something? Cooking abstention figures again like last August? I wonder how they are going to make people believe that 30% of the country voted!!!!! I mean, even chavistas, soldiers mounting guard, corrupt leaders have eyes!

18:22 PM

OK, finally the center closed.

I will close this post now. Later this evening I will write up something when more results appear, more events, but as a new post.

I have been getting info for a general nation wide abstention in the 90%. Well, even if it is only 80% it is a disaster for Chavez. Where are HIS 70% in polls? His 10 million voters for 2006?

But let's wait if the CNE confirms 90, or 80 or 70 or who knows what as it has managed to cloud the voting act YET AGAIN. Even if they did not do anything wrong, well, people now doubt again.

Really, only by firing Rodriguez (caught receiving massage favors in Florida) and his combo, and clearing up the electoral system will we get again participation above 50%. Just on this respect today is the end of Venezuelan democracy, the day people stopped voting altogether.

18:39 PM

Ooops! I shut up too early!

Jesse James Chacon is speaking from the vice-presidency. He is "reminding" all sorts of numbers from the past, and "defining" legitimacy. So you know where the trick is coming from. They will manage to have as many votes cast as some of these elections held in the past.

In other words, you know that 1) the abstention is huge, 2) they are running scared, and 3) as the good thugs they are they will do what it takes to "justify" their "victory".

We know what is waiting for us.

19:46 PM

Amazing! There has not been yet an official announcement as to have to close the entire voting centers. There is NO WAY that there is a significant amount of centers that might still have people standing in line. Who? Where? Why not just close them officially?

Venezuela has an automated voting system, "the best" "one that the US would be lucky to have (dixit Jesse James Chacon), for speed and we are now almost 4 hours since the "official" closing time and no result, not even the abstention :-)

In France, where all is manual, all is paper, all is counted one by one, polls close at 6 PM in the country side and 8 PM in large cities. At 8:01 PM you know the likely winner. At 9 PM you know the trend for the National Assembly majority margin, the final abstention rate and perhaps as much as 1/2 of the elected candidates names (around 550 seats to count manually). By midnight you know who won the majority, by how much and probably a confirmation of 2/3 of specific winning candidates. On Tuesday morning papers print the names of 99.5% of winning candidates, the numerical result, the still contested seats, etc...

Can someone explain this without incurring in fraud speculation? Could it be really that much incompetence?

20:06 PM

I got a rumor. The government would be planning to report 5 million voters. The delay is due to them cooking the numbers to be able to reach this wild number.

I do not know whether this is true, we will be fixed soon, but already it would be patently false if they dared to announce that: I saw LESS voters than in August in the electoral centers I visited and this is an universal observation from anyone I talked to. There cannot be more voters than in August.

But if I mention this gossip it is because, not wanting to toot my horn, last night I wrote the following:
... if participation does not reach 30% then the opposition can claim to be stronger than Chavez by just claiming half of abstention. In fact, anything below the 30% mark will be a disaster for chavismo, no matter how farfetched “historical” explanation chavismo spokespeople can come up with: all will have in memory the desperate attempts at thwarting abstention.

The only way chavismo can preserve some credibility tomorrow is by getting AT LEAST 40% of participation...
5 million is 30%. Yes, you read it here first.

20:36 PM

OK, I am getting tired and this post has really run its course. I might come back later on tonight but this time I promise to make it as a new post.

So to leave the gentle reader who has put up with this long day in my company, an amusing and thoughtful detail. The Baruta chavista candidate to compete against Gerardo Blyde looked like some escualida brunette bimbo on her posters, closer to a beer add than a political program. If there was a safe seat for th eopposition, it was the chacao Baruta seat held by Blyde.

She might not be a bimbo at all, and perhaps even a good candidate, but she chose a pouting pose with baseball cap on top.

Well, I have been sent the results of one of Baruta voting centers.

Polideportivo La Boyera Center:
Total voters: 4688
Cast ballots: 491 (10.47%)
Abstention: 89,53%
Gabriela Ramírez MVR: 162 (32.99% of votes cast ONLY, and 3.46% of total voters!!!!!!)
Void (with an electronic system?): 263 (53.56%, the void win!!!, by a wide margin)
Other candidates not withdrawn: 66 (13.44% of votes cast).

So the woman will go take her job with not even 5% of her neighbors votes? Democracy anyone?

The interesting point here is that the "void or null vote" won. How come if you run an electronic system. Well, if you wait for too long to press the buttons the vote becomes null after a while. Or you still vote for the candidates that are not running anymore (though the machines could not have been reprogramed in such a short notice, at least I do not think so). So, what gives? Well, public employees that are forced to vote come to mind. In that area of Caracas they are probably educated enough to find a way to go and vote but nullify their ballot.

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