When I talk about October’s election, people invariable ask me about “the numbers”. ¿Cómo van los números? That kind of thing.

They mean the polls, of course.

But next time somebody asks me, I’m going to shake my head and say, “it’s not looking good…5.4102.19.”

In international context, it’s extraordinarily rare for any incumbent to lose re-election amid a spurt of strong economic growth. And in a petrostate context, it would be genuinely extraordinary for an incumbent to lose with triple-digit oil prices. 

Some will see this attitude as defeatist. I of course think of it as realistic. People vote their pocket books. More specifically, they vote the trend in their household finances. Right now – hard though it may be to believe – a very large number of Venezuelan households are seeing their finances improve month by month.

We’re asking a lot of the Capriles camp when we ask it to overcome this structural disadvantage. Because, we should be clear: that the race is even competitive is already a huge testament to the work they’ve done.

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  1. I would definitely agree with you, but the government hasn’t been spending as much as in past elections. Witness growth in M2: “only” 20% so far, while in 2006 M2 grew 6% monthly. I would venture to say that the reason this fight is strangely close is because of this.

    And it definitely doesn’t mean that Chavez cannot spend like it’s 2007 in one month.

  2. THE Country is literally falling apart; anyone who lives here knows it; the typical individual income (minimum wage) at a realistic Bs. 9-10/$ is about $200/mo. with which the average Joe can barely get by even with subsidized Mercal, etc.; corruption takes a good chunk of the “improved economic growth=increased oil prices; if people “vote with their pocketbooks”-Chavez is out!!!

  3. This post is full of falsehoods. First, AD lost the elections in 1978, right in the middle of an unprecedented oil boom and a period of relatively high economic growth. In other words, the only other time a similar situation existed in this “petrostate context,” the result was exactly what you claim it would not be.

    Second, the supposed “poll” used here to support the claim that the race is “competitive” is an opposition poll that faithfully gives numbers in favor of the opposition. For example, days before the 2004 referendum Ultimas Noticias said the following:

    “Chávez cayó 15 puntos en proyección para revocatorio…el presidente Hugo Chávez ha sufrido una caída de 15 puntos porcentuales entre quienes estarían dispuestos a votar a su favor, ubicándose en 30% en junio de este año contra 45% que registró en mayo de 2002. Esto se desprende del último estudio de opinión realizado por la encuestadora Varianzas Opinión, dirigida por Rafael Delgado Osuna.”

    • AD had not hijacked and destroyed all Venezuelan institutions, there were term limits on Presidents, etc. etc. It was the Republic of Venezuela, Not a Republica Accion Democratica de Venezuela, the Adecos did not go over the place pissing and marking territory, they did not sack all public employees and officers who were not blancos blanquitos, etc. etc.

      So COPEI was able to make a very strong case to the electorate that the Republic of Venezuela had contracted huge amounts of debt for no plausible reason in the middle of an oil boom, that and that there had been serious corruption scandals in the AD administration.

    • I second and third this opinion. But, also, mil kudos to Kiko who, in the absence of Comments, did a wonderful almost herculean job of keeping his Blog interesting/current with an unusual number of articles mainly of his authorship, along with Gustavo’s contributions. I truly believe one of the great strengths of this Blog is its openness to Comments,even if sometimes not complimentary, and the subsequent repartee amongst Commentators. The invitation to “Join The Fray” says it all, and was really the reason I, at least, even initially began commenting here.

  4. Questions in polls say that people feel household finances has become the number one problem. Yes, if you ask what is the number one problem in the country they say crime, but when they are asked what is your personal number one problem they say it is household finances, or inflation, or purchasing power. And despite the “growth” numbers and all of that spending, that has been increasing since December, not decreasing.

    Why? The answer is inflation. You can fake inflation numbers all you want, but people feel it and salaries have not been catching up. The explanation may be that this is not a normal economy that can be understood in the usual terms. In fact, despite the huge expansion in fiscal spending, the results are much smaller than you would have expected. Most economists were saying the second quarter growth would be 6-6.1% on average and it came in at 5.4%.

  5. Quico,

    What I am wondering is how this post can help the opposition in any way. Ideas are only as good as their usefulness is.

    On one hand you have said that elections are pretty reliable and the other hand that oil prices have gone up, so Chavez is going to win.

    If Chavez loses , but steals the elections, this kind of thinking that you are promoting would allow Chavez to get away with it and play right into his hands.

    I agree with Miguel in his above statement.

    • Firepigette: So, an idea is useful so long as it helps the opposition? For my part, I think the devil’s advocate position Quico takes is great. Too many times, the opposition has deluded itself into thinking they would win elections. Despite all the many, many reasons why Chavez should not win, we must not forget that the demagogic and populist moves Chavez has made target those who were neglected by previous governments, and they are the majority of voters!

      • hgdam,

        I would agree with you about ideas in general.However in Politics ( especially during election time), usefulness is the name of the game .

        Chavez is using the overwhelming propaganda means at his disposition.We must not play right into his hands.That does not mean lying, but it does mean not pumping up Chavez’s possibilities with the kind of remark that Quico made.

        What he said is a support for a legitimate win on the part of Chavez because the oil prices are going up.

        • I think you misunderstood Quico’s point. The point is that with oil prices above $ 100 per barrel, Chavez will spend heavily on demagogic and populist moves. You will see the government handing out goodies like crazy in the next few months, like they do in all elections. This can only help the chances of government. So, the battle is uphill for the opposition. Whether such moves on the part of the government are legal, legitimate or ethical is not the point of the post. No amount of outrage on our part will change the reality of politics as usual on Chavez’ part.

  6. hgdam

    I got that point but Quico himself said that people might find his attitude defeatist,which is defined as “Demonstrating expectation or acceptance of failure.”

    The reason he says that, is because it is.At the very least many people will see it that way which is important here because if fraud is suspected, people will argue that a Chavez win was expected all along so why should we claim there was major fraud ? It takes away from the case of skullduggery on Chavez’s part.I am speaking from the point of view of psychological tactics.

    Many people have made the statement time after time as of late, that Capriles is more popular than Chavez right now, and assuming a Chavez win due to higher oil prices is not exactly a great psychological tactic.

  7. “People vote their pocket books. More specifically, they vote the trend in their household finances. Right now – hard though it may be to believe – a very large number of Venezuelan households are seeing their finances improve month by month.”

    Would you add the word “mostly” in there? As in, People vote *mostly* their pocket books? Or they *mostly* vote the trend in their household finances?

    If you wouldn’t, then the point of this post seems lost, because the Capriles camp is mostly pushing messages that are not to pocket books, nor household finances. If you would, then the point of this post seems to force one to conclude that the Capriles’s main message should be one that gets voters to extrapolate a fuller pocket books or healthier household finances if they vote for Capriles, but since it isn’t his main message, Capriles is not gaining as many votes as he could.


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