Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

Independent, Reality-Based Analysis

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Was Turnout Decisive in the Regional Elections?

Hugo Pérez Hernaíz and David Smilde

There has been much comment on low voter turnout for the December 16 regional elections. In an interview the day after the elections opposition leader Julio Borges argued that if every opposition voter that voted for Capriles in the presidential election had also voted in the regional elections, the opposition would have won up to 18 States. Since then, chain messages circulating in opposition web sites and social media have insisted on the point. Here is a translation of one anonymous message:

Our voters have handed over the country to government supporters. Here are some data that show it. Please read this until the end… 

Anzoategui:  Aristobulo won with 279.672 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 378.345

Aragua: El Aissami won with 328.520 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 384.592

Barinas: Adán won with  127.669 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 165.135

Carabobo: Ameliach won with 393.758 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 537.077 votes

Falcón: Stela Lugo won with 141.024 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 195.619

Guarico: Rodríguez won with 132.105 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 135.451

Mérida: Alexis Ramírez won with 137.599 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 239.653

Monagas: Yelitza Santaella won with 155.310 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 191.178

Nueva Esparta: Mata Figueroa won with 110.502 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 125.792

Portuguesa: Wilmar Castro won with 116.647 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 131.100

Sucre: Luis Acuña won with 134.484 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 182.898

Tachira: Vielma Mora won with 236.369 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 356.713 votes

Vargas: García Carneiro won  with 74.609 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 78.382

Yaracuy: Julio León won with 121.512 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 127.442

Zulia: Arias Cárdenas won with 749.492 votes; on 7-O Capriles received 842.032

PS: In Miranda, Capriles received 200,000 votes less than on 7-O. 

FRAUD or Inconsistency?

With abstention levels of 40-50% in every State, it was the abstainer and not the CNE who ended up handing over the country to the reds. We could have won all the States. The apathy and indifference of the people is sad. 

How sad to see that Venezuelans would rather stay home and wait for a supposed cancer to do their dirty work 

We handed over the country… God save us from what they will do with it…

Of course, this math only works if you hold constant the level of pro-government voters. The reverse could also be true. Given the margins of victory, if every Chávez voter had also voted in the regional elections, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) would have easily won all 23 governorships. 

According to the CNE, 53.84% of registered voters participated. Of course this looks low compared to the 80.48% turnout in the October presidential election, but in the context of recent previous regional elections in Venezuela, it looks well within the norm for these types of events, lower than the 68,45% participation level of 2008 (a historical high for Regional Election), but higher that the 45,73% of the 2004 elections.

So did abstention favor one side more than the other? It is hard to tell by simply looking at overall vote tallies since people can conceivably switch their votes-voting for Chávez in the general election but for the opposition locally, or vice versa. The best way is to simply look at municipalities or parishes that tend strongly in one direction or another and see how their participation rates compare.

In Miranda, turnout in the strongly opposition municipality of El Hatillo dropped 19.27%. In pro-government municipality of Acevedo, it dropped 19.45%. 

In Táchira, turnout in strongly opposition Cárdenas municipality dropped 26.34%. In the pro-Chávez Garcia de Heiva municipality, it dropped 25.97%.

In Zulia, every municipality is pro-government, but we can see that turnout in the strongly opposition Chiquinquirá parish of Maracaibo dropped 17.3%. In pro-government municipality of Baralt it dropped 18.17%.

These examples suggest that abstention levels were roughly equal among pro-government and opposition municipalities and were not decisive in the outcome. Rather, as several analysts have pointed out (see Teodoro Petkoff here and Iñaki Sagarzazu here) the voting blocs remained roughly the same in the regional elections as they were in the presidential election. Inded this time around the government won 20 of 23 states whereas in the presidential elections in won 21 of 23 states. In our next post we will look at where local dynamics seemed to have had an impact. 

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