Monday, December 09, 2013

Seats and Votes in Venezuela

As I write, the website of Venezuela's Consejo Nacional Electoral won't open, but the results seem pretty clear at the moment. Chavistas won roughly 44% of the national vote while the opposition won 41%. With malapportionment, that 44% translated into 58.5% of municipalities (196 of 335).

However, the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias says that Chavistas won 210 (62.7%), and got 49% of the total vote versus 42.7% for the opposition, which I guess just assumes anyone who didn't vote for the opposition must support the government. I wrote a blog post three years ago on Venezuelan malapportionment that I think holds up well.

Whatever the exact numbers, the gross mismatch between seats and votes is what gives Nicolás Maduro the ability to talk about how popular his Love and Loyalty to the Eternal Comandate has been, and how he will deepen the revolution.

I argued after the presidential election that the opposition would move to think about recall, though of course it would have to wait. I think that is still one of the more useful prisms through which to understand these election results. The electoral system essentially locks up seats for Chavistas, especially given how it favors rural areas. Real change requires a national presidential vote, which the opposition has never been successful at winning. No matter how you parse the votes, Chavismo is still more popular than any other alternative.

The main thrust of news reports is that the country is divided and there is a stalemate. Yes, the country is certainly divided but "stalemate" is not entirely accurate because Chavismo has the massive advantage of incumbency. In a stalemate both sides are stuck, and in Venezuela only one side is stuck.


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