Thursday, January 12, 2012

Predicting the unpredictable: the primaries result

If in previous elections looking at historic trends could allow me to do some electoral predictions, for these primaries it is basically a useless task.  And yet, who can resist?

In the past elections I kept doing better and better at predicting results getting to a rather amazing 69 seats for the opposition in 2010.  But then the trends existed even if the CNE figures were not quite fully reliable (after all we are still waiting for the 2007 referendum final and complete result).  This time around, since primaries are for president, governor and mayor, and since there is no consistency in who supports whom, it is simply impossible to do a prediction based on previous returns since almost at every circuit the parameters will be slightly different from next door circuit.  Still, it is a worthy exercise in that I can decide from such a study that the only ones on paper that can win are Capriles or Perez.  True, with one month of campaign left, implosion is still possible.  But after almost two month of candidate vetting it seems unlikely that Capriles or Perez will collapse, though it is possible that Lopez will sneak into second place, beating Perez by a hairbreadth.

How did I reach such a conclusion.  I will not worry you with the tables I built on Excel (not to mention that this being such a speculative venture I am in no mood to have a table done in good faith be slammed at me in a month from now).  Thus you will only see a summary of my method and the results I got.

First I assumed that that the results of 2010 Latin american Parliament vote as given by the CNE are legit.  Since those are the only ones nation wide to carry the political party symbols it is the best suggestion we have.  And yet not complete since for example Convergencia did not post a card and thus trumped the Yaracuy results for my prediction (but Yaracuy being small, who cares really).

Second I divided the votes by region:
- Oriente: Nueva Esparta, Sucre, Anzoategui, Monagas and Bolivar (this last one because I think that for primaries it will behave roughly like the other states of the list)
- Llanos: Apure, Barinas, Portuguesa, Guarico and Cojedes (though I even questioned worrying about them because they are heavy chavista and the most likely to have the highest abstention).
- Occidente: Zulia, Tachira, Merida and Trujillo (Trujillo really does not matter much and the other ones together because in these three states UNT and COPEI will behave more predictably, simplifying my calculations).
- Centro: Falcon, Lara, Yaracuy and Carabobo (because Carabobo is the only state where Proyecto Venezuela is strong enough to make the difference and it goes for Lopez in theory)
- Caracas at large: Vargas, Libertador, Miranda and Aragua (because it is the stronghold of Primero Justicia)

In third I started giving abstention coefficients to each party according to each region.  For example AD will have in general more voters absent from voting stations because it does not have its own candidate.  However where AD has a strong candidate for a governor primary its abstention would be lower, benefiting Perez.  Or PPT who I doubt that more than half of its voters will go and vote in a primary.  These coefficients were at least 30% going  up to 50%.

Then, the fourth parameter is an absolutely subjective coefficient on which party is more able to convince all of its voters to vote for the supported candidate.  For example I have strong doubts that COPEI voters will follow massively Perez when their more natural fit would be Capriles, Machado or even Lopez.  However UNT and PJ voters should be more consequent.  Still, I gave every party a desertion coefficient of at least 10%, up to 60% in some states.

Finally I added all in four groups, Capriles, Perez, Lopez and "uncommitted" meaning a sum of small parties in the CNE result, the "unity" cards in those ballots (MIN and UNAPARVE) and other subjective criteria that I pleased to have (my blog, my criteria).

The results are as follow (all rounded up, of course)

Participation: in 2010: 5,1 million (5,6 with PPT and OPINA)
Participation in one month from today: 3,2 million

This is quite good if you ask me.  In previous posts I wrote that anything above 2 million would be good and I think that we can make it to 3 million.  Of course chavismo will consider anything that does not reach 50% of registered voters a disaster for the Unidad, but let them eat cake.  Anything that reaches half the vote of normal elections is considered anywhere as a primary huge success. Note: in 2010 there were 17.5 million registered voters and an abstention of 34% with 11,3 million valid votes.  So 3 million votes represent almost 30% of the voters and any number above that can only mean that chavistas have gone to vote in the primaries too..........  hence the campaign of discouragement that the regime is undertaking to make sure that participation will not go above the 2 million that they could still sort of explain.

I then give:
Capriles 993.000
Perez 1.195.000
Lopez 279.000
Uncommitted 695.000

On paper Perez is winning but all polls so far give Capriles ahead.  Thus I am wrong in estimating the loyalty to Perez of AD and Copei voters (even some UNT who would have preferred Rosales).  Also my uncommitted number might be too high as many may have migrated to Capriles already.  Thus in all subjectivity I am passing 100.000 to Capriles from Perez and 50.000 from uncommitted.

Capriles 1.143.000
Perez 1.095.000
Lopez 279.000
Uncommitted 645.000

And lo'and behold, we do sort of get the latest complete poll we had in October!  30% Capriles, 25% Perez and the rest, the rest, with Lopez ahead of the pack.

From this exercise we can see that Lopez is too far behind on paper, and political parties loyalty, to overcome the lead or Perez and Capriles.  Even if the 645.000 were to go all to him he would still not reach the million votes and at best could only challenge for second position.  And in the 645.000 we can be certain that Medina will get at the very  least 50.000, Arria 100.000 and Machado 150.000 (though each one is supposed to get at least 200.000 from the people that signed for their candidature).

However my gut feeling does not give me these numbers.  I think that Capriles and Perez will indeed not go much above 1.000.000 each because their campaign is not attracting the hard core opposition and chavista will vote for them in October but not necessarily this time around, too afraid of being caught voting in the primaries at work or at the mision.  In other words they are at their peak already and their campaign playing it safe, I do not think they can grow much (though the Perez campaign seems suddenly more reactive, having endorsed today the no-re-election policy and the Unity card for October, very popular issues among hard core opposition).

The ones that are motivating the hard core opposition voters are Lopez, Machado and Arria and they will bring possibly an extra 500.000 votes to the 3 million I calculated, and split it among themselves.  So these three may have as much as 1,4 million votes to share, making a surprise victory by one of them a possibility if either Capriles or Perez make some significant faux-pas in the next 4 weeks.  Though in all conscience I doubt that at this point Capriles can lose unless Perez manages to revive dramatically.

AGAIN: this is not an official prediction, it is at best an educated gut feeling on how the electoral base for the campaign moves.  And with 4 more weeks to go.  It is a mere starting point for the trends to come, illustrating the challenge for each candidate.  I will refine this model and include polls as they come available and as I know more about some local governor races of influence (Miranda and Anzoategui in particular).  Then, and only then, may I dare make a prediction.


  1. I am surprised that the goverment is not taking advantage of the opposition primaries to give a mandate to their people to vote for the candidate they consider has fewer chances to win against Chávez.

    Am I too maquiavellic or it is a politically silly idea?

  2. The Gremlin7:59 AM

    Bruni, I'm not sure this could be accomplished without attracting too much attention.

  3. Island Canuck2:31 PM

    My wife who is Venezuelan has assured me that she will vote in the primaries however she has concerns.

    She is convinced that there will be a PSUV tent parked right in front of the polling booth taking names & photos of those who go to vote.

    Like many Venezuelans she has kept a low profile with her vecinos about her allegiances & she worries that this could cause her problems.

    I wonder how many other voters will have the same worries.

  4. Canuck,

    And what about your wife who is not Venezuelan? :-p How many wives do you have, Canadian pervert?

    Seriously: I think Chavistas will on very short notice send their people to vote for whoever it is. They have the capabilities. They have been trained to do that and if you haven't heard about it is because the decision will be taken by a couple of them shortly before the election time.
    They are aware of leaks

  5. Anonymous4:41 PM

    Bruni, Chavez is far too interested in having a low voting turnout in the primaries to allow that count to go up by sending his minions to vote up a hopeless oppo candidate.

    It's more likely that he uses tactics to reduce the voting as much as possible, especially dirty tactics by the CNE. I have no idea how the voting itself will take place (are they using the voting machines? Who does the actual counting?) or how much responsibility the CNE people will have in the voting process. But I foresee a ton of "technical" delays due to mysterious malfunctions. Of course, anything that happens as a result of CNE's doing will make them look incompetent and/or obviously trying to sabotage the whole thing. But Chavez is more likely to prefer that bit of bad press than allowing the oppo to have a clean election.

    And of course, everyone within ten light years of a government job or a mision will receive a message telling him of how "inconvenient" it would be for him to vote in the primaries.

    And is there any betting going on on how long will the cadena be on that day? I give it 4 hours at least. Probably at the time the voting centers are supposed to close so that they can cover up the irregularities.

  6. Island Canuck6:26 PM

    "And what about your wife who is not Venezuelan? :-p How many wives do you have, Canadian pervert?"

    Ha, ha Kepler!
    Only one at a time.
    I will say that there have been a few. :-)
    This one is the best!

  7. Bruni

    It seems that chavismo has decided not to participate in the primary. However, there is still one month to go ad it may change.

    But it may be too late for chavismo to participate. Say they decide to support Arria. This want remains silent and suddenly retires the day before the primary, or even hours before. All candidates seem serious enough, united enough that who ever is chosen by chavismo would retire except the front runner in polls.

    But I do not think we need to go this far in cosnpiracy theory. first, if chavismo were to pick a candidate then it woudl mean an implicit recognition of the value of open priamries that THEY DO NOT PRACTICE. thsi is no good.

    Also, if a lot of people are thronging the voting polls then many chavistas will not understand the subtlety of trying to pick up a candidate better suited to Chavez taste and will think it a huge opposition success. There are enough poorly educated for this to be a concern, the more so that it would force Chavez to waste time explaining it to his followers.

    In short, if chavismo were to plan a voting strategy it would have been clear by now. I think that they genuinely never believed that the opposition would go this far in the primary road and now they are out of strategy. Besides, any of the opposition candidates is going to be equally bad for Chavez, even Medina.

  8. CharlesC10:33 PM

    Daniel, you are saying chavistas will not participate, but I think along the lines Anonymous noted
    there are ssveral ways they Chavez
    et al can and will interfere.
    Chavez enjoys mucking things up..

  9. Juan Cristóbal2:25 AM

    That's pretty bold of you to post actual votes instead of percentages! I agree with your overall conclusion, but I think
    a) the margin is going to be wider; and
    b) the total number of votes is going to be lower than you predict.

  10. JC

    You maybe right or you may not, that is why I qualified several times this post as highly speculative. However one thing was interesting for me: it was easier to try to predict total votes than percentages. Though if one predicts turn out and percentages then one predicts votes, and if one predicts votes and turnout then one predicts percentages. No?

    Where I do not agree with you is on the margin. Well, not quite. I did not write it in the post but I think that the lowest the turnout the more favored is HCR against PP, but the higher the turn out the higher may be the vote on PP. If I did not write it in the post is that the higher and higher the vote gets then the higher and higher are chavistas voting (without chavismo directions) and then it starts favoring HCR again. But we are talking complex mathematical curving here and I better stop myself before I drift into yet more potential ridicule :)

  11. "Chavez is far too interested in having a low voting turnout in the primaries to allow that count to go up by sending his minions to vote up a hopeless oppo candidate"

    Excellent point, anonymous. In fact, excellent comment overall, and combined with Daniel's comment on primaries, it's clear there is much more reason for chavismo to not participate in the oppo primary at all.

    I think Chavez fears the primary to some degree, as it exposes him as undemocratic. Therefore his biggest fear is that it succeeds by any measure, including turnout. Plus his public statements regarding level of turnout seem to show he is betting on low turnout as his "proof" of its failure.


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