Venezuela’s municipal elections today are mainly interesting for what they will indicate about the strength of the relevant political coalitions and what this will mean for their strategies and directions over the coming year. These elections have long been touted by the opposition as a sort of plebiscite on the Nicolás Maduro government, an interpretation that has been resisted by the government as it smelled danger. However, if the government does well it almost certainly will treat the results as strong evidence that the Chávez revolution is alive and well.
Giving the events of the past month, polling numbers are volatile. But our default expectations should be that the government will win the popular vote by five percent, give or take five percentage points. This means a good day for the government would see them win by ten percent. A good day for the opposition would see them repeat the April 14 elections in which Henrique Capriles lost by a point and a half.
In these three “election day briefings” I will provide a review of the main three stories to watch: what these elections mean for the Maduro government, what they mean for the opposition coalition, and what they mean for Venezuela’s institutions of electoral democracy.
This evening I will live blog as election results start to come in.
The Maduro Government
Maduro’s first seven months as president have not been easy. Having won the April 14 snap presidential election by only 1.5% after Hugo Chávez left him with a 15-20% lead only a month before, inevitably meant that people would question whether he was up to the task. The opposition saw him representing a new level of incompetence and smelled opportunity. But Maduro’s problems within his own coalition were just as big. Many thought that Chávez had not chosen the right successor and feared Maduro would drive the revolution into the ground.