Sunday, January 29, 2012

The dust settles over the primary campaign perturbations

Two recent events have thrown two powerful wrenches into the carefully orchestrated Unidad primary where all was supposed to go smoothly toward a united candidate, at the price of, lets's say it, a rather dull campaign.  And today it is nice to see that the wrenches will not have wrecked the opposition united resolve as chavismo keeps hoping; and maybe made it even stronger.

The first wrench was the head to head of Maria Corina Machado and Chavez on January 13.  Besides the folklore around such an event the fact of the matter is that MCM became a credible candidate and one with a real political future.  Suddenly the perspective that she could do better than a 4th place and deny an outright majority to the winner became clear to all and forced the other guys to review their strategies.

The one more directly affected was Leopoldo Lopez whose campaign was nixed from the start by the ambiguity of the regime in making his run legal.  It does not matter that many did not think this concern worthy of worry, the fact of the matter is that the hoi polloi has grown so weary of chavismo treachery and its ability to get away with murder that any weakness in any candidate is over-amplified.  LL who at some point was a challenger for second place and maybe for first had become now clearly someone who was not going to win (at least not by February 12, those deadlines, you know).  So LL did the only sensible thing: withdraw rather than be counted and make things worse for him.

Withdrawing does not hurt people who were never perceived as a front challenger.  But withdrawing when you almost led at some point and when you can become an unexpected 4th can kill your political career.  So LL could not just withdraw from the race, he had to line up behind someone.  And he did it rather well by going over to Henrique Capriles Radonski, almost making it a given for February 12 (more on that at the end of the post).

This HCR/LL tandem was also the second wrench thrown at the Unidad campaign.  Many people were upset, in the Pablo Perez camp in particular, more even than among LL own party, Voluntad Popular.  For notice I may point out an amazingly bitter article of Rafael Poleo in Zeta (not on line) going as far as saying that obscure interests (that he does not name, of course) conspired all along for that HCR/LL show so as to wreck Unidad chances and ease an eventual victory of Chavez.  Jose Vicente Rangel would be the real artifice of that conspiracy!  Even if we discard outright half of that piece it would still be damming for LL.  And yet even if I deduct the names of  the "somber" economic interests to be the despicable Cisneros group of Venevision who made a pact with Chavez shortly after the Recall Election it is still not a point.  Not only times have changed since 1998, and 2002 and 2004, but all political campaigns from any side have always some "dark interests" giving money.  Let's start discussing the folks financing PP, just to name one.

But if Poleo is an out of touch extreme (it is starting to show that he has already spent too much time outside of Venezuela) there are also elegiac articles making LL decision the best thing since sliced bread.  Let's get away from these crazies and acknowledge that LL decision was also the one of a statesman, the one of a guy seeing further than his political interests and favoring the interests of the state: the opposition needs a strong winner out of its primaries.  More important than whatever votes LL brings to HCR the  LL decision created a necessary debate before the vote so all has chance to be discussed and whoever wins in February will have less grudges to heal since all will have had their say.  That is, the opposition will decide whether it is best to seduce chavismo (PP and HCR basic tenet) or promise blood sweat and tears (MCM, Arria and PM).  That each option is untenable is irrelevant, what we are deciding is what type of campaign we should do.  Starting October 8 a new reality will force how to rule.

LL was straddling a little bit both sides, hoping to benefit from both point of views and that favored him at first, attracting the interest of many such as yours truly.  But LL could not solidify that.  Either the "inhabilitacion", either a poor choice of campaign strategies, either a feisty MCM, it does not matter but his logic approach run aground of a country who only understands polarized politics; and thus it is simply best to settle the issue inside the opposition, bland versus hard against Chavez, tossing away the reasonable option.

That is why after one week of reflection I think that LL decision was even better than expected even though at its origin such lofty goals may not have been the motivation for such decisions.  Now we have a simplified situation: there are two brands of blandness towards Chavez, through PP and HCR; though PP has a tougher feel to him which may or may not be compensated in HCR by his new sidekick.  And we have MCM for the tough love with Arria as her caution to make her tough love speech more credible.  The hard core "take no prisoner" fringe of the opposition will have a catharsis through Arria and then all will rally around HCR, the most likely to win.


As a bonus, numbers.  Retaking an earlier post where I was telling you that on paper HCR had to win, we can revisit here the raw numbers.

Of 100 voters we can be assured that mid January the sharing was as follow:

25 HCR
20 PP
15 LL
5 Arria
30 floating

Now, after these two wrenches, half LL goes to HCR and part of the floating drifts to MCM with 25% of LL (people like me for example who see virtues in HCR but are not ready to vote for him).  Also, the sudden polarization between PP and HCR likely makes some floating drift to PP, buying into the "right wing conspiracy" of HCR and LL.  Today we may be like this:

35 HCR
22 PP
13 MCM
6 Arria
24 floating

In this conservative scenario for HCR (I am sure he is getting better numbers but I am playing Devils' advocate here)  HCR margin is now too big to be overcome by February 12 by either PP or MCM.  Even if PP gets half of the floating population he still gets 34 only.

My bet at this point is 45-50% HCR, 25% PP, 15% MCM, 8% Arria and 2% Medina (as a protest vote of sorts).  The 5% in question for HCR going to PP or MCM.  And if any PP supporter complains about my guesses let me remind them that PP left the field to HCR alone for at least two months while UNT sorted its internal mess and courted AD and COPEI.  Time is of the essence in politics and on this regard both HCR and LL have a much better timing than the other guys.  By far....


  1. The question I have, Daniel, is the following: if HCR is unstoppable, why don't the other candidates decide to unite behind him, such as LL did?

    Wouldn't it be better to just have a single front instead of splitting the vote and looking weak in front of Chávez?

    In the end, what we need is not any particular candidate, it is one candidate behind which we can show a strong united front to face the election.

    1. Bruni

      That is where we see the rather unexpected benefit of the exit of LL: a debate.

      The opposition goes from PPT left to Arria right. Pretending that we will all unite as if nothing was always unrealistic though we had no other choice but to try. Now we will have a short debate, albeit still incomplete, where we will be able to count those that are on the left PP and pseudo left HCR and those on the right MCM and Arria. Losing a debate is tough but in the long run will give better motivation to unite for October than if you were taken for granted as the MUD was slowly creating by not paying attention to differences.

      One thing is to say "I do not agree with X but I will vote for X because I am told to, and that is all" and the other is "I fought X, I lost, but X election is my best chance for one day to win against X and become the unity candidate. So I will help X to win" or something like that. Let me put it this way. I will likely vote for MCM but HCR is going to win. Well, when I start writing in support of HCR I will come across as more sincere because people will know that I am not doing it for a job but because I really think he is better than Chavez. On the other hand another blog that shall remain nameless has endorsed HCR ecstatically and whatever they write after February 12 will always somewhat smell of propaganda.

      There is also a benefit in primaries: the contrast with chavismo who is held together by the might of Chavez alone. That is, the dictatorship in one side will be come clearer to many as the divided other side manages to unify for a common goal, and good. That is why chavismo is busy trying anything to discredit the primaries: it hurts them.

  2. Anonymous2:35 PM

    And, the other blog (which will remain nameless)
    sort of closing the door on the opposition precandidate process -even before the election. And, stopping analysis. Whereas, thank goodness for example yourself and el Diablo continue to post very good analysis and commentary worthy of our study and participation in discussion...

    1. I would not be so harsh on the other blog. Let's say that they lost interest in the primaries as soon as their candidate got a commanding lead. Now they prefer to plan safaris to Tacusipon.

  3. I find what is happening extremely interesting Daniel. In fact, it is the first time in Venezuela's political history, please correct me if I am wrong, that we have such an open process.

    May this process lead us to the start of a better Venezuela....

    1. Yes and no. There have been primaries before and they always ended in near calamitous results. AD had internal ones for Piñerua or Lusinchi, I forgot, and it nearly split. Copei had one for Caldera versus Alvarez Paz and it split for good, never recovering.

      But these process were not as open or transparent as this one (which could still use some more transparency if you ask me). Then it was strictly managed by the "cupula" who tried to delay it as much as possible until some agreement came and when voting took place it was an intra party affair.

      So for the yes part, this is a total novelty, something the PSUV tried to do 3 years ago but could not resit in making Chavez the ultimate king maker anyway.

      Still, we should be aware of two precedents inside the MUD who allowed it to dare do such a project: the legislative primaries of 2010 and the Voluntad Popular open vote. Those two items demonstrated that the politicians of today had matured enough to deal with the implications of a primary. Then 13 years of autocracy must have taught them something, no?

  4. "to plan safaris to Tacusipon."
    People go to safaris mostly to see the animals.
    Any way one interprets that, it's very arrogant and offensive from you.
    Daniel, what are you saying?

    1. kepler

      1) let those that are supposedly offended take offense. if there is any blogger that does not need white knights it is the nameless blog writers.

      2) i am sure that their sense of humor will allow them to understand the intent of my comment. in fact, i am delighted for them to go to Tacusipon because they have been away from Venezuela for too long and they need to resource themselves with the reality. had i been available i might have offered myself to drive just as i included another blogger to the globo debate.

      3) in fact, i defended the other blog starting with the "I would not be so harsh on..." from one of their readers who is actually upset at them. all words matter, not only "safari at Tacusipon."

      4} last and not least it is a fact that since january 23 they have not posted a single post on the campaign.

      PS: and if you are upset with me because i am not endorsing HCR well, too bad, take it elswhere.

    2. I don't care if you like or dislike Capriles. I wonder if you only want to have comments that agree with you.
      As for offense: it is not so much about Juan & Francisco, but about the people that live in that "safari".

      By the way: living in Venezuela, I see it more and more, does not precisely make many more enlightened about what is happening in the country. One can be in a complete or partial state of delusion living just at the corner of the disaster.

      En fin...te faltó la expresión "para ver los monos". Am I over-interpreting? Yeah, that's what we hear all the time from Venezuela.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. You know something Kepler? re-reading your whole intervention I am realizing that your misplaced and obtuse political correctness that no one but you gets is threatening to create an unnecessary spat between me and my respected colleagues at CCSChr. I resent that.

  5. What is quite "arrogant" is to close the primaries before they close...and what does that have to do with democracy?

    Voting for the winner?

    This is what so many people did when Chavez won the elections at first." No quiero perder mi voto" After all it seemed to people that it was clear that voting for anyone from the 4rth Republic was a sure loser.

    Having the people vote their conscience in the primaries and only afterwards supporting the winner is the way democracy works.If you preempt the process you are also cutting off free debate and the possibility of new and lesser known candidates rising.

  6. Definitions of safari:

    l. sa·fa·ris
    1. An overland expedition, especially one for hunting or exploring in eastern Africa.
    2. A journey or trip: a sightseeing safari.

    1. "an organized journey to look at, or sometimes hunt, wild animals, especially in Africa"

      "noun (plural safaris)
      an expedition to observe or hunt animals in their natural habitat, especially in East Africa:
      one week on safari"

      And now someone will pretend it's American English.

      American Heritage dictionary
      "1. An overland expedition, especially one for hunting or exploring in eastern Africa.
      2. A journey or trip: a sightseeing safari."

    2. Kepler,

      I got my definition from the free ONLINE dictionary.So as you see there is a variety of meanings and uses of the word which range from viewing animals to a land expedition.


      NOTE: different definitions exist which is why they list them.If they exist they can be used.# 2 of the American Heritage dictionary states 'a journey or trip: a sightseeing safari' without detailing or involving animals.

      The Thesaurus gives us a synonym: expedition, and it comes from the Swahili,meaning journey.

  7. I got a new one, just to spice it up a bit:

    Indio Chavista no va pa Safari"

  8. Anonymous8:53 PM

    So, now Perez becomes the "kingmaker"
    at least his party-a.if they do not endorse
    the winner of the primary (if it is not Perez)
    Has Perez promised to endorse whoever wins the primary?
    Anyway, we shall see. I hope voter participation is high. I ask everyone I know-when I speak to them-"are you going to vote?"
    They all say "Yes"..

  9. I think if I were Venezuelan 'd vote for MCM

  10. Daniel, congrats on your blog.

    So we are starting to see the effects of the political stunt of Maria Corina Machado, finally all the candidates of the opposition's primaries are starting to lining up, or at least leaning towards to their natural side, and showing that they have their own voice, and they are not puppets of some political party. Which is always good.

    So analyzing the last correlation of forces, and the formed alliance between Capriles and Lopez, and the reactions of the people for the formation of such alliance. I've checked the good reactions and of course the bad comments.

    The good reactions are numerous, and the worst estimate says the opposition's primaries has became more interesting, and people are expecting if the others candidates will step down and give their political endorsement to one of the leaders with the real chance to win the election.

    Now I've been curious about the bad reaction of a former editor of a local newspaper of Venezuela, at first, the words "sore loser" came to my mind, but then he launched not one but more than one article denouncing that alliance. Claiming that the alliance is a plot from the right wing against the left wing of the MUD.

    Is there any indication that the MUD is falling apart? That after this the MUD can not remain united and the hope to defeat the worst government ever witnessed by Venezuelans citizens is shredded?

    1. No, the MUD has suffered some but I think it will hold fine.


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