Monday, February 06, 2012

The other primaries: the battle of the proxies

[UPDATED]I am late in covering the other primaries but the task has been more difficult than expected.  First, there is the myriad of alliances that do not match those made at the top of the ticket, and they keep shifting as MCM goes up or Leo goes out.  Second, there is a dearth of polls so really, it is difficult to get even a "trend" that we can trust.  And third, in recent weeks, all are jumping on coattails: even if opposing, candidates for the town-hall of Tucusiapon have their picture taken with Capriles.  One has a sense that if Perez where also to offer his picture with both of them they would probably accept.

What is your average blogger pundit to do?  Give up and only point out the races interesting to watch, those that will have implications for the future relative strength of different parties.  For this second installment, probably the one before last since the vote is next Sunday, let's look at what I dare call the battle of the proxies, that is, where candidates for a given party are also some kind of Trojan horse for other parties.  I have in mind Anzoategui governor and Caracas Libertador mayor.

In Anzoategui UNT against PJ through AD against PODEMOS.  This is the easiest way to observe this phenomenon.  UNT wishes to become a national party even though it has wasted too much time sorting its own affairs inside Zulia.  So of course they have no candidate in Anzoategui and had to rely on one of the few palatable AD, Barreto Sira.  The guy was barred from running 4 years ago in one of the many unjustified "inhabilitaciones" just like Lopez. But now he can.  So he represents AD but also the coalition behind Pablo Perez.

Normally Barreto Sira should be a shoo in to win the primary, but there is yet another "victim" in the ex mayor of El Tigre, Ernesto Paraquiema, who had a troubled tenure in El Tigre, including direct strict fighting against chavista forces.  See, Paraqueima is/was a rising star in PODEMOS when these guys were still with Chavez but ever since they are trying to keep a foothold in politics.  So, in exchange for their support to Capriles, they got the support of PJ for Paraqueima when PJ would have had the right to file its own candidate since Anzoategui had the lone town-hall of PJ outside of Caracas, in Lecherias.  It does not matter anymore, for all practical purposes now Paraqueima seems to even copy the quirks of Capriles...

So there you have it, whichever wins will have as the real victor UNT or PJ and not really AD or PODEMOS. My bet, very light, is for Barreto, because he controls the electoral machinery of AD one of the last ones to still have some muscle.  But Capriles might be strong enough to carry Paraqueima.

I am taking this opportunity to remind readers that it has been my opinion that the presidential primary would be decided in the Eastern part of Venezuela of which Anzoategui is the main bite.  Now that Capriles is almost the sure winner, what is at stake here for him is the margin of victory that will also be decided in the Eastern states.  Hence the relative importance of the Anzoategui outcome as it might be the key for Capriles to reach the 50% ballot count.  The polls must be indicating that because Perez spent this week end campaigning in his home state which by now should be granted to him with at least 60% of the vote!!!!!

In Caracas it is a free for all.  For the Libertador district which has more votes than most Venezuelan states, we have a very confusing battle with many candidates, but 4 that matter.  Again, even if not that obvious, we do have proxies.

The obvious proxy here is Ismael Garcia.  He is currently representative for PODEMOS in Aragua and used to be La Victoria mayor.  But the fortunes of PODEMOS in Aragua have waned so much that the guy decided to run in Caracas, supported by PJ.  Why PJ would fail to field its own candidate in a district where it is at the very least the second force is part of the mystery of weird alliances that have been weaved for this year. I think it was a mistake because Garcia is not a great candidate and not form Caracas and that will affect him.  His victory would be a true show of force from PJ.

UNT has its own candidate with Stalin Gonzalez, of student protest fame in 2007 who did a very, very honorable score in 2008.  He should be a shoo in now since he is already a Caracas representative.  But times have changed, his student aura has faded some, and the political dis-aggregation of Caracas could now benefit any of them.

But UNT has a cryptic proxy if such things exist, with Richar Blanco, also a Caracas representative.  He is running under the banner of ABP, the party of Ledezma, mayor at large of Caracas, who had to withdraw from the presidential race once AD refused to endorse him preferring Pablo Perez.  Blanco is a good candidate because he is from Caracas, he serves Caracas, he is a victim of the regime because he tried to preserve the peace against chavista abuses who sent him several month to jail until the charges were proven unsustainable.  Certainly if UNT had supported him instead of Stalin who has already a job after all, Blanco would be a shoo in.  But he is not.

In front of such a division, a fourth character that would normally not have a chance this time around, has now a possibility.  After all, you can win the primary in Caracas with 30% of the vote!  Antonio Ecarri certainly would never reach 30%, at least not this year, but that is enough if the other guys really split equally (again, no reliable poll but that Ecarri is campaigning hard only hints at the validity of my reasoning).  It is not that he is not a good candidate, he is, but the other ones are bigger luminaries, victims, and what not.  Ecarri almost made it in 2010 in a tough district that includes the 23 de Enero which should be a given for chavismo.  Robert Serra barely made it against Ecarri giving him a defeat much more valuable than the victory of Serra who is now in trouble for promoting guns to children....  And even if Ecarri runs as an independent of sorts he  is actually the candidate of Voluntad Popular making this a 4 way race and Ecarri as another type of proxy.

My guess?  No guess.  I think this race will decide itself this week.  I think Blanco could make it but the Capriles pull could undo his chances.  Then again there is also the possibility that many chavistas will vote and they are not going to do it for Garcia the betrayer of Chavez even if they like Capriles.  If there is a district where chavista vote will have an effect it is Libertador.  I so wish someone would do a serious exit poll there, and publish it!!!!!

Update: as almost sensed above, Richar Blanco yesterday endorses Perez.  So the guy has two proxies in Caracas.  No word as to Stalin withdrawing......

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