Losing Parapara

Lost in the news of the torrential rains soaking our country, some Venezuelans went to the polls yesterday in a Special Election to elect two of the country’s governors and 11 mayors.

The noteworthy result for the opposition is that our candidates were elected Governor of Amazonas, our country’s largest state (by area), and mayor of Maracaibo, our second-largest and most vergatarian city. But there are reasons for concern too: we got pummelled in some rural races, losing by an even bigger margin than usual.

The Amazons result was a squeaker, with the opposition candidate and incumbent governor, PPT’s Liborio Guarulla winning about 51.2% of the vote. In Maracaibo, the story was different, as Eveling Trejo, the wife of the exiled mayor Manuel Rosales, obliterated former mayor Giancarlo Di Martino with 58.7% of the vote. She also won herself a snarky little article from the local chavista daily Panorama.

The opposition also won three other mayoral elections: Coloncito (Táchira), La Asunción (Nueva Esparta), and Carrizal (Miranda). Chavismo won the other 7 mayoral elections, and the governorship of Guárico.

So all in all, a good result for the opposition, right? No major surprises, since a comfortable opposition win in Maracaibo was expected.

Yet the number that jumped at me was the election for Guárico’s governor. The chavista candidate, Luis Gallardo, won there with a whopping 77.6% of the vote.

You might be tempted to discard this result as Guárico has been a deep red state for years. The incumbent governor, chavista bigwig Willian Lara, died in a car accident while campaigning, so there could have been a sentimental factor to the vote. And it’s hard to draw major inferences from special elections anyway, where turnout is always atypical.

Still, there’s no hiding the fact that chavismo’s percentage is way higher than its margin last September, when they pulled in 58% of the vote and the combined tally of AD and PPT in the list vote reached 40%.

The unity candidacy in Guárico was negotiated for months, and in the end, the AD candidate, Carlos Prosperi, was anointed standard-bearer, with the reluctant support of the other candidate, the PPT mayor of San Juan de los Morros. More importantly, the PPT itself refused to endorse Prosperi.

Whether this division was a factor in the election is anyone’s guess.

A while ago I wrote a post about the opposition’s need to reach beyond its urban core and make inroads in rural places, using as an example our dismal results in places like Parapara, which coincidentally is in Guárico.

Sadly, going from about 40% of the vote in September to a miserly 23% of the vote in December is a major step backwards. The electoral math for 2012 just doesn’t work if we keep losing rural races by those kinds of margins.

Guys, you’re going the wrong way! Parapara is that way.

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