Venezuela's Quirky Election

Picturing the results announcements tonight is kind of a nightmare for me. Aside from the usual chaos of Venezuela’s elections, we will have the despelote of numbers and figures from circuits and lists and alliances. I can’t imagine what it will be like for foreigners who don’t know Venezuela’s states.

In order to guide us through it, it would be helpful to have a list of the key circuits handy.

If the opposition is going to win a majority of seats in the National Assembly, it needs to win all of the following races:

Amazonas – Large, sparsely populated state is where chavismo is at its strongest. We won’t win the state’s only Circuit, and we don’t need to.

Anzoátegui – The most populous of the eastern states, known for the beauty of its beaches and for its new oil developments. The governor is chavista figurehead Tarek Williams Saab. If the opposition is going to win a majority, it needs to win all circuits. In other words, we need to win big in Anzoátegui. Not an easy task. If the government wins at least one circuit, we need to pull out an unexpected win somewhere else.

Apure – A chavista stronghold in the Llanos. We only need to win the 3rd circuit (San Fernando, the state’s capital). Tulio Pérez of Proyecto Venezuela (huh?) is our candidate in that circuit.

Aragua – Industrial powerhouse close to Caracas, it’s a solid chavista state, one of the few urban chavista strongholds. The opposition needs to win Aragua’s 1st district to eke out a majority, i.e., Maracay, the state’s capital. This circuit selects two deputies. Our two candidates are IVth-Republic dinosaur Hiram Gaviria, and Primero Justicia’s Richard Mardo, who lost the mayor’s post a couple of years ago by a few hundred votes. If the government wins one of the deputies here, we’re facing tough odds.

Barinas – Hugo Chávez’s home state. Basically, it’s a wash. We won’t win circuits here, and we don’t need to. If we do pull one out, it will probably be Barinas 1. Winning that would be nice because it gives us elbow room to lose some place else.

Bolívar – Southwestern Venezuela’s industrial state. If we’re going to get a majority, we need to win all three of Bolívar’s circuits. Heavy gerrymandering means this is going to be difficult, since Bolivar’s 2nd district, which encompasses Ciudad Guayana, selects three deputies. If we lose a single circuit deputy in Bolívar, we probably won’t get a majority.

Carabobo – Urban, industrial state to the west of Caracas. The governor is the opposition’s Henrique Salas Feo. To get a majority, we need to win two of Carabobo’s 5 circuits, Carabobo’s 3rd (Naguanagua) and 5th (southern Valencia) districts. The former is a piece of cake. The latter is more tricky, due to the many urban poor. Turnout will be particularly crucial in that district, but I’ll let Kepler explain some more.

Cojedes – Rural state in central Venezuela is a chavista stronghold. We won’t win any circuits here, and we don’t need to.

Distrito Capital – Winning a majority in western Caracas means winning in chavista strongholds like the 23 de enero, the DC’s 2nd District. The path to a majority means we also need to win in the DC’s 3rd (El valle – Coche) and 4th Districts (El Paraíso – La Vega). It’s going to be tough, particularly since chavismo hass put forward a combination of old faces (Darío Vivas) and younger ones (Robert Serra and Andreína Tarazón). Without any of these districts, we’re in trouble.

Delta Amacuro – Largely rural, indigenous state at the mouth of the Orinoco river. For years a chavista stronghold, but we may have a chance in the Delta’s 1st Circuit, in the state’s capital of Tucupita. To win a majority, we need to win there. The opposition’s candidate there is Verónica Brito.

Falcón – Western state is going to be tough. Chávez tends to underperform in the West, but the governor is chavista. Coro’s archbishop is one of chavismo’s harshest critic. Basically, we need to win the 1st, 3rd and 4th circuits. That only leaves the 2nd Circuit (Punto Fijo) as a chavista win, likely as the economy there revolves around PDVSA. If chavismo wins any other circuit in Falcón, we’re screwed.

Guárico – Another chavista stronghold (death grip?) in the Llanos, its chavista governor recently drowned in a car accident. We won’t win any seats there, and we don’t need to. It would be nice to win in Parapara, just to prove me wrong.

Lara – The heavily-populated western state is the true wild card in this election. Henri Falcón, the state’s popular governor, split with Chávez and is running strongly. Regardless, we need to force the government to lose one circuit here in order to have a majority. The circuit where this is most likely to happen is the 3rd Circuit, in Barquisimeto, where two deputies are selected. If the government loses there, we’re fine. If it doesn’t, we’re in trouble.

Mérida – This bellweather Andean state is key. In order to win a majority here, we need to win two of the state’s four circuits. The places where we’re most likely to do so are in the 3rd (Mérida city, the capital) and 4th (Ejido, souther Mérida) circuits. If chavismo wins in one of these two, we’re in trouble.

Miranda – Curiously enough, we only need to win three circuits in this opposition stronghold to get a majority. Basically, we only need to win the 1st (San Antonio and Los Teques), 2nd (Baruta and Chacao) and 3rd (Petare) circuits. Everything else would be an added bonus. Given the high popularity of the current opposition governor, Henrique Capriles, this is one of those places where we may pick up an extra seat or two, and would help us cushion losses elsewhere.

Monagas – Oil-rich Monagas is a government stronghold. We don’t need to win seats here, and we won’t.

Nueva Esparta – Long an opposition bastion, the island state has two circuits, and we need to win them both to get a majority. If chavismo wins in either of the two, we’re in trouble.

Portuguesa – Another chavista bastion in the Llanos. The government will win all the circuits there, and that’s ok. We don’t need to win any to get a majority.

Sucre – This one is difficult. Sucre has long been a chavista state, so the fact that we need to win two of the state’s three circuits makes getting a majority all the more daunting. Basically, we need to win the 2st (Carúpano) and 3rd (Cumaná, 2 deputies) circuits. If chavismo wins in any of these two, we’re in trouble.

Táchira – Another opposition bastion. The border Andean state has suffered mightily at the hand of Chávez’s reckless handling of relations with Colombia and its accommodation with the FARC. Will that translate into a sweep for the oppositon? To win a majority, we need to win all of Táchira’s circuits. If chavismo wins any circuit there, we’re in trouble. Local opposition authorities (the governor and the mayor of the state’s capital) should help the get-out-the-vote efforts.

Trujillo – Impoverished Andean state is a chavista stronghold. We won’t win any seats there, but that’s ok, we don’t need to.

Vargas – Strangely enough, this state remains chavista. We don’t need to win any deputies there to get a majority, and past experience says we shouldn’t win, but it would be great if we did. This is one of those places where the opposition could pull a surprise.

Yaracuy – Agricultural state in central Venezuela. Our path to victory goes through winning two of the three circuits there – the 2nd (Cocorote) and 3rd (San Felipe) circuits. The government is a lock in the 1st district of Chivacoa.

Zulia – Venezuela’s largest state. To get a majority means we need to practically sweep all the circuits in Zulia. Can we do it? It’s going to be tough. Basically, we need to win all the circuits except for Zulia’s 6th Circuit (in Maracaibo). History says we probably won’t do it, and if we don’t, we probably won’t get a majority.

So, there’s your chuleta. Once Tibisay Lucena starts spitting out results, you’ll know that if chavismo starts winning in some of the places mentioned above, we won’t have a majority.