[UPDATED] There is only one way to understand the why in the electoral date change announced today by the CNE (Venezuela's election board): someone linked to the great beyond decided on that date October 7. It could be from a Cuban Babalao, to a Kabbalah cabal. Your pick. Because nobody is surprised by the separation of elections and by the anticipation of the presidential ones. Though I am surprised a little bit by the municipal elections pushed as far as sometime in April, close enough to sine die in Venezuelan parlance.
Let's start with the separation of elections. It makes sense because the cyclic nature, in theory, of Venezuelan mandates mean that this year we have an accumulation of election that simply put, the CNE would have a very hard time to manage with an electoral system increasingly complicated and untrustworthy. As such, we all knew that it was a mere matter of time for the announcement. Though it is illegal because the municipal elections are way overdue (last in 2005), the governor and mayor terms expire in October 2012 and thus their election in December (maybe) is not acceptable either. That is, in a country of strong executive power its elections cannot be tossed around at will, no matter how legal the CNE claims its actions are.
Now, what is really interesting here is that the presidential are the ones advanced even though that vote is the one of the three that could have remained as normally scheduled, that is, on the traditional first Sunday in December. There are two potential reasons for such a change: the health of Chavez and the electoral risks for state and town-hall elections.
The health of Chavez is bad, and for all to see in his bloatedness. Even El Pais of Spain had time to write already a piece as to why they think the date change is for the benefit of Chavez. The thing is that even if we assume that Chavez will be alive for the election he will not have the physical strength required for a difficult campaign. The choice is clear: concentrate massive expenditure of vote buying money in as little time as possible. Since the opposition primaries are in February the real campaign will last from March until late September, 7 months, a short campaign for Chavez standards.
There are other benefits for chavismo. If by next December it is clear that Chavez is not recovering well enough they can still file someone else in January and use a still alive Chavez to support that campaign, in which case the shorter the better, before Chavez croaks.
But why October 7? Maybe we could think that chavismo did not dare advance elections by more than 2 months but we'd probably be wrong. I certainly will not discard an esoteric aspect for the decision, but I will advocate for true and tried treachery. See, if Chavez were to lose on October 7 2012 he would have 3 full months until January 10 2013, when the new term is supposed to start as per the constitution (1). Already in 2010 the 3 month advance in legislative elections allowed a lame duck assembly to neutralize the workings of the coming one. Just imagine what Chavez will do if he does not win on October 7 with 3 months ahead of him. Heck, he might even stir enough riots to force new elections! A call for a constitutional assembly even?
The governor and mayor election are pushed to December, but no sure date yet, which means that the real date is still flexible, at convenience. The point here is that a defeat of Chavez could imply further losses at regional levels (I would estimate it at at least 4 states and up to 50 mayors gains for the opposition). Thus a Chavez still in office for 3 months, assuming he is willing to surrender the presidential sash, may still limit the damage, with even unconstitutional artifacts as needed.
See, it is all coldly calculated even if esoterica is involved somewhere, quite normal for a scared regime in its death throes.
UPDATE: well, at least someone is happily kabbalistic. Maria Corina Machado wrote that October 7 is her birthday.
1) I got temporary confusion about the constitutional date to take the oath of office in Venezuela. Indeed it is the 10th of January and not February 2nd. Back at home tonight I checked and did the changes which do not alter in anything the points raised in the post. However, in my defense, I will say that Chavez did only take his oath of office (whatever that meant to him) in 2007. The other time, 2000, a compliant judiciary accepted a different date for his convenience. There is thus a precedent and with a high court even more controlled by Chavez today than in 2000, that 10 January is aleatory.
If anything correcting my error actually strengthens my points because chavismo does indeed need at least three months to deal with an electoral loss, enough time to either make a "legal" coup or at the very least empty office drawers of any compromising documents. That is, that pitiful attempt at gaining 2 months is almost an open admission that they know they will be not in charge anymore in 2013