Posts tagged Venezuelan elections
Posts tagged Venezuelan elections
Nicolas Maduro, Chávez’s political heir, won Sunday’s snap election by an unexpectedly narrow margin. With more than 99% of the votes counted, Maduro secured 50.7% of the vote, while opposition candidate Henrique Capriles of the Democratic Union coalition won 49.1% of the vote, according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council. Roughly 230,000 votes separate the candidates. Capriles did not accept the results and is demanding that electoral authorities carryout a 100% audit.
Regarding a possible recount, what is the position of Maduro and of the National Electoral Council (CNE)?
After the National Electoral Council gave the official vote tally last night, the CNE’s four pro-government rectors stood up and left the stage. The lone opposition rector stayed and announced that he was requesting a 100% audit of the paper ballots, and attention to the documentation of 3,000 irregularities alleged by the Capriles campaign. This clearly means there is no consensus within the CNE for carrying out such an audit. Their announcement that they will proclaim Maduro president today makes such an audit seem even less likely.
In his acceptance speech, Maduro several times supported the idea of going to a recount. However, campaign manager Jorge Rodriguez later suggested that going to an audit of the paper ballots would be like going back in history and that the opposition wanted to do that because they were specialists in stealing votes. Rodriguez’s voice is important not only because of his position as campaign manager but because he was president of the CNE for several years.
12:45 I’ll close the live blog with this reflection. This is a “devastating victory” for Maduro. It leaves him weakened within his own coalition and facing an emboldened opposition. Capriles has asked for a 100% audit of paper ballots. Maduro appeared to accept that in his speech. It is not clear that the CNE has the capacity or willingness to carry that out. Four of the Rectors got up and left before opposition rector Vicente Diaz suggested the possibility. This will undoubtedly be a real test of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and culture. Today’s vote showed the same thing that the December 2, 2007 vote showed. This is a people with over a half century of uninterrupted democratic history and which has the independence to defy expectations.
12:30 Capriles again demands an audit suggesting that irregularities plus votes abroad suggest a different result. Again calls Maduro illegitimate.
12:20 Capriles says he will not make “a pact with lies or with corruption.” He also says he does not make pact with those he considers illegitimate. He points to a stack of paper describing voting day irregularities. He says they are not going to recognize the result until every vote is counted, until every box of paper ballots is opened. He says “voice of the people is the voice of God.” He says that their (the opposition) counts show a different result. He says to Maduro “the one who lost tonight is you.” Says he respects those who voted for another option but demands respect for those who voted for him. Says the country is divided in half.
12: 15 Capriles prepared to declare.
11:50 Faces at the victory celebration tell the story: subdued, reflective, very few smiles, scare applause.
11:35 Rejects Capriles request for a pact. Mentions the need to construct a majority, but then again suggests no need for a pact when the electoral result is clear.
11:30 Maduro talking. Denounces psychological warfare. Looks disoriented and lost in his speech.
11:25 Diaz stays alone on stage. Other four rectors leave. He asks for a 100% audit of the votes.
11:20 Maduro 50.66% Capriles 49.07%. 1.59% difference. Incredible. Lucena said they have already talked to both candidates which suggests they will accept. Now opposition rector Vicente Diaz is talking.
11:15 CNE rectors coming down. Perhaps to give result.
11:05 Sources suggest photo finish. Votes from abroad could be important.
10:50 Reports suggest that CNE has counted 98% of the vote and still does not have an “irreversible tendency.” Put differently: very close.
10:40 Relatively more rumors in past half hour talking of a Maduro victory by 1.5-2 pts.
9:55 Either possibility is going to be difficult. A Capriles victory will be difficult for the government to accept. A small margin victory for Maduro would also be difficult since it would leave him seriously weakened. Given that he started with a 15+ point lead, winning with a margin of less than half of that will raise doubts.
9:45 What I can say is that the rumors from both sides are talking about smaller gaps. Both sides suggest they’re winning by 2 points. Unfortunately that is within the margin of error of most quick counts. In October the CNE gave its first bulletin—which they only do with there is an “irreversible tendency”—at 10 pm. If it is much latter this time around, it means the margin is small.
9:15 We’re currently in the spin zone. In Venezuelan elections the hours between the closing of the polls and the CNE’s “first bulletin” are full of rumors from both camps that their exit polls and quick counts show they are ahead. Public announcements from the parties (who cannot project results) project self-confidence and warn the other side that they will need to respect the results. Tonight is no different.
David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
In the first two posts in this series (here and here) we looked at incumbent’s advantage and ventajismo as they are present in the office of the presidency, the candidates’ access to media and advertising, and the candidates’ ability to mobilize their followers. In this final post we are going to look at two final issues—the electoral register and independent observation—and give a final assessment.
One long term policy of the Chávez government has been to expand coverage of identification-without which people are not recognized by the state-as well as voter registration. Indeed the electoral register has grown more than 70%, (from 11 million when Chávez was first elected in 1998 to 19 million) at the same time that the Venezuelan population has only grown 22% (from 23 million to 28 million). This has caused understandable concern among the political opposition that the government might be stacking the RE with ineligible, non-existent or deceased people.
Over the past 48 hours I had the opportunity to see the latest polling of Venezuela’s most reliable firms. Of course, Venezuelan electoral law says we can’t talk about numbers at this stage of the game. What I can say is that indeed there has been an interesting narrowing in the gap between Maduro and Capriles. However, the numbers now look similar to where they were before the October elections and it seems likely that Maduro will win with a similar margin of victory, perhaps somewhat smaller.
That said, the main lesson I took away from seeing various pollsters results is that the unique elements of this election—coming on the heels of a popular president’s death, with a successor that people do not know well, who a couple of weeks before Chávez’s death took the most unpopular of measures in Venezuela (devaluation)—means that the numbers are unusually volatile.
All of this is not just a moot point since the gap by which Maduro wins will be the main focus of the results. If he can repeat Chávez’s margin or improve upon it he will be in a strong position. If he gets anything less than an eight point margin it will raise doubts within his coalition that he is the man to carry the revolution forward. It would also energize to organize for the municipal elections this year, legislative elections in 2015, and an eventual push for a recall referendum
AJE on the Venezuelan Elections
Watch Al Jazeera English’s Inside Story Americas talk show on the Venezuelan elections. CSIS’s Carl Meacham, CEPR’s Alex Main and myself talk about the issues of the campaign.
Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
The short 10-day campaign saw the opposition produce new criticisms of the National Electoral Council (CNE). As in previous elections, the opposition needed to strike just the right balance between pressuring the CNE regarding what they believe the electoral body’s biases to be, and assuring its supporters that elections will be clean, thus avoiding voter abstention. This latter point is an important one, as in the past elections the opposition’s recurrent accusations of electoral fraud hurt its own voter turnout.
On April 3rd, however, the opposition raised an alarm that implied a technical failure on the part of the CNE. The Secretary of the opposition´s MUD coalition, Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, stated in a press conference that a liaison CNE-PSUV technician (named Oscar Matínez) had the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) code allowing him to access the voting machines that are to be used on April 14th. The discovery had been made during a routine inspection on March 30. The BIOS code, according to Aveledo, should be only in the hands of CNE technicians and not of party representatives to the CNE.
David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
On April 14 Venezuela will go to presidential elections again, and the country’s electoral system is under scrutiny once more.
On March 15, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said “We believe that the Venezuelan people deserve open, fair, and transparent elections in which all can vote with confidence that their decision will be respected…That will be a little difficult, but that is what Venezuelans and the international community should support.”
This generated an immediate response by Tibisay Lucena, president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), who said that “Venezuela has an electoral system that guarantee’s the sovereign decision of the electorate because it is audited at each step of the process.”
Indeed, Jacobson’s focus on election-day transparency seems misguided since the results of the October 2012 presidential election were verified by the “quick counts” of independent domestic observers such as the Venezuelan Electoral Observatory (OEV) and the Electoral Observation Network of the Education Assembly (ROE) as well as opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ own campaign. Indeed, Capriles conceded his defeat by Hugo Chávez the same evening, leaving evidence-free claims of fraud to only the most radical government opponents.
This does not mean that Venezuela’s electoral democracy is beyond reproach but rather that attention should be focused elsewhere. While all serious audits noted the strength of the election-day platform, independent assessments also significantly criticized the CNE’s failure to ensure a fair campaign against the incumbent.
Atlanta…At the invitation of Venezuela’s National Election Council, The Carter Center will send a small delegation to accompany the Venezuelan people during the April 14 presidential election.
The delegation includes former Panamanian President Martín Torrijos; former Colombian Governor Horacio Serpa; former Costa Rican Ombudsman Rodrigo Alberto Carazo; Carter Center Americas Program Director Jennifer McCoy; Carter Center representative in Venezuela Héctor Vanolli, and Carter Center Associate Director of the Americas Program Marcelo Varela.
“Our delegation reflects the high international interest in the election,” former President Torrijos said. “We hope that the electoral campaign currently underway will achieve a respectful tone to help create a propitious atmosphere not only for the elections but for political coexistence and understanding in the country.”
Barclay’s Research released poll numbers from last week, the first numbers to come out since Chávez’s passing. They show Maduro getting only a limited 2.8 point bump. Datanálisis’s numbers from February had Maduro leading Capriles 46.4% to 34.3% (12.1% difference). These new numbers show Maduro leading Capriles 49.2% to 41.4% (14.4% difference).
However, there are two things to keep in mind about these numbers that make it look a little bit worse for Capriles. First, these numbers include 15-20% of respondents that do not answer. If we assume that those who did not answer will either not vote or break for the two candidates in the same proportion as the existing tendency, then we need to polarize the percentages so that they sum 100%. Doing so we see that in an actual election, the February numbers would have Maduro leading Capriles 57.5% to 42.5% (15% difference), while the March numbers would have Maduro leading Capriles 58.6% to 41.4% (17.2% difference).
Second, the March numbers come from a telephone poll while the February numbers come from Datanálisis’s traditional door-to-door fieldwork. Telephone polls in Venezuela not only have a higher margin or error, they tend to have a class bias. The higher you are in terms of social class, the more likely you are to have a telephone number registered in the type of databases that pollsters use. There are ways of controlling for this. But unless we know if and which sampling controls were used it is hard to know what to do with this comparison. It is always possible that Datanalisis adjusted correctly or even over-corrected. But past performance of telephone polls in Venezuela suggests it is more likely that the numbers are under-corrected and favor Capriles. These controls are as much art as science.
Now that the presidential election has been called and both sides have chosen their candidates—Vice-president Nicolas Maduro for the governing socialist party (PSUV) and Miranda’s Governor Henrique Capriles for the opposition—it is time to think about strategies. First, however, we need to take a quick look at where the numbers are at.
In the past October presidential elections president Chavez defeated Miranda’s Governor Henrique Capriles by 11% (55-44); this with a participation rate that reached 80% of those eligible to vote. In the subsequent regional elections chavismo defeated the opposition by a similar margin 55%-45%, this time around participation reached 54%. Finally, based on Hinterlaces past poll we can see that voter intention for the Maduro-Capriles race had a similar pattern 55-45. More recently Datanálisis released numbers that (when adjusted for abstention) show Maduro with a 15 point lead.
At first sight one would think that the government’s candidate is in position for an easy victory in new elections. That is why a majority of analysts, me included, have suggested that it is in the government’s best interests to call for elections as soon as possible. A short campaign would help the government keep the emotions surrounding Chávez’s passing high. Nevertheless, it also benefits the opposition because it prevents Maduro’s image as a statesman to solidify.
In what follows I am going to try to hint at some challenges that the government and the opposition might face and how they can overcome them.