Quico made a point last Friday about how Venezuelans, like other voters, vote with their pockets. In the midst of an oil boom, and with the economy growing at healthy rates, it was always going to be difficult to unseat the incumbent.
The problem with this argument is that it is too logical for its own good.
In 1968, Rafael Caldera, of the opposition party Copei, defeated the incumbent party’s candidate Gonzalo Barrios. Real GDP growth rate for that year was a tiger-ish 7.3%, according to the World Bank’s Development indicators.
True, you may argue that the split in the governing party played a factor. Still, that sounds like a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking to me. If the economy link were true, AD should have won that election even with the split.
In 1973, we saw more of the same. While 1972 had been mediocre, with real GDP growing at a meager 1.3%, growth picked up in ’73, when the election was held, ballooning to 7.1%. The result? The incumbent Copei party lost in a landslide to AD’s Carlos Andrés Pérez.
And while in 1978 growth had slowed down to 2.4%, opening the door for the opposition candidate Herrera Campins to defeat AD’s Luis Piñerúa, the fact is that growth had been 7.7% and 6.3% the previous two years.
Quico’s explanation is sensible, but simplistic. I don’t believe it’s a settled matter that if the economy is humming along people will vote for the incumbent.
The fat incumbent may win alright, and if it happens, some of it will undoubtedly be due to the economy. But the economy won’t be the deciding factor in this election. It rarely has been.