An Election Fraud as Big as the Ritz

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Handrail of broken dreams

Last week, the government announced that addressing the country’s deep-seated economic distortions…just wasn’t something they were going to worry about. A few days have passed since the economic non-announcements that made this patently clear. So what does this tell us about the political road ahead?

That the 2015 National Assembly elections are going to be rigged.

Big time.

The logic here is simple: voters are highly sensitive to economic conditions. There’s a reason chavismo went to such extremes to engineer a consumption boom ahead of the 2012 elections. People love stuff, and they vote for governments that make sure they get stuff.

The Dakazo was not an accident. Creating conditions for people to consume more in the months ahead of a vote gives the incumbent a huge advantage at the polls. It’s a little thing we like to call “populism.”

But to engineer a consumption boom next year, or even just to ease the currently brutal shortage situation, some serious steps toward reform are absolutely needed this year. It seemed reasonable to assume that a government interested in actually getting the most National Assembly seats next years would take the opportunity to enact reforms now.

But the Sacudón is a strong signal that reform is out of the question this year.

That means the government is going to get to the A.N. elections with nothing in the tank, an even more chaotic economy, even worse shortages, and favorability ratings even further down the toilet than they are now.

You could see that as an indication that the opposition has a good chance to take the Assembly next year. I can’t begin to imagine that’s what’s going to happen.

Post-chavismo wouldn’t last a year in cohabitation with an opposition-run Assembly. Surely they know that. Surely they won’t let that happen.

To me, Maduro is as-good-as-telling-us: the plan for next year is straight out, big time fraud, with hardcore intimidation and even-more-aggressive-than-typical gerrymandering in the mix.

We’re not talking about the kind of arguable, but-the-evidence-is-sort-of-inconclusive fraud of April 2013. Big, bold-type, flashing-red-neon fraud of the type perpetrated by a government that’s just not interested in optics. Museveni-style, Ugandan-scale fraud. Announce-that-we-won-even-if-we’re-20-points-behind fraud.

This is going to take some planning, and a great deal of execution.  Brace for never-before-seen levels of surveilance, harassment and dirty tricks. Grasp that 2013 was the pilot, 2015 is the real thing.

Expect all of the now-traditional irregularities, and much more. Expect weekly video-taped attempts to buy off opposition candidates. Expect honeypots. Expect honeytraps. Expect a poll-war on a different order of magnitude from anything we’ve seen before. Expect to see pollsters that publish anything other than a big PSUV lead hauled off to Ramo Verde. Expect an even more extreme PSUV machine, out stuffing more ballot boxes in more places more blatantly with more intimidation tactics on our witnesses than we’ve ever seen before. Expect the furthest extremes of “voto asistido.” Expect total media silence on all of this.

It’s that, or some pretext to suspend the election. But it’s probably that.

1 COMMENT

  1. Couldn’t the present Assembly just vote that Maduro can rule by decree until the end of his term? I guess you might say that’s illegal, we’ll take it all the way to the Supreme Court…

    • I’m not sure but i think he’s already under Ley Habilitante, i could be wrong but with these people you never know.

      I guess they’re doing it for legitimacy…maybe moreso internationally,although the pueblo eats plenty with these cuentos.

  2. Right on target Could not agree more Anyhow an AN with an opposition(?) majority would not amount to much Best gracias

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  3. You are absolutely right. There is no freaking way chavismo will simply accept a defeat in next year’s election. They will commit as much fraud as they need to. Of that you can be completely certain. However, I must say that to me it seems like the government still wants to get as many legitimate votes as possible. Their motto seems to be: “Get as many real votes as possible, and if that’s not enough to win, fill the gap through fraud”.

    According to most polls, the government can count with 30% of the population who are hardcore supporters and will vote for them no matter what. That means they will need to get up to 20% of the remaining votes through fraudulent means, depending on how much above that hard 30% they are able to capture in the campaign. For some reason, the government seems to think that the best strategy in order to get as many people to actually vote for them is to postpone the economic measures that need to be taken. And you know what? They actually may be right! This is something that needs to be analyzed, but in any case, my point is that they still want to minimize the amount of fraud required. Of course, this time that minimum will need to be huge. But if they didn’t want to minimize, why be nervous about the repercussions of their economic decisions?

  4. My thinking all along was on a suspended election, it is the easier sell. People do not care or understand the importance of legislative elections so it will not be a big issue.
    Your scenario is a lose-lose proposition for the government.

  5. My wishful thinking.

    What if they let their conceit blind them? What if they cannot even believe they could lose? After all they are fielding a candidates birthed by a demigod (or possibly fully divine, chavez-nuestro and all). Certainly “history is on their side” or maybe the Caribbean will part a road to Cuba while pajaritos chavistas sing.

    I am still amazed by the non-event of the Sacudon. EVERYONE sees the apocalyptic situation the Venezuelan economy is careening to and they just carry on with an infantile negation.

    Intellectually and ideologically, they cannot respond. They seem like a ‘deer in the head lights’, plain frozen.

    I remember in the debate oppo and plaga roja had in Miraflores earlier this year was quite telling. While the oppo made an OK presentation, plaga roja presented the same worn arguments with no nuances to the changing times. Or for that matter the speech for the Sacudon. They seem to have a bad case of group think debating in an echo chamber.

    Finally, a 20% fraud will take some craftiness which will be very hard to do given their record of incompetence. Instead, they will just take over by force. Their style is far more grotesque.

  6. Why take so much work doing all that?
    They can do the same stuff they’ve been doing in the last years since the 2004 referendum fiasco: Just saying “we won, you lost”, regardless of the actual numbers, after all, the machines can spit anything they’re programmed to do.

  7. agree Quico, but I would add that apart from all fraud “siempre hay otra piñata que le pueden dar palo”. Look a Mugabe, he won his latest election promising black ownership of all the white people´s businesses (indiginesation act). There´s still loot in the banks for example.

  8. Ironically, by not implementing economic reforms, I don’t think the government will last till the next elections. The current deficit rate suggests that the country runs out of dollars to continue business as usual before then, and the lack of economic reforms ensures they will not be able to borrow more. I think that the bolivarian players know the gig is up. They will steal whatever they can in the meantime and disappear when the well dries up, leaving Venezuelans to starve without local food production and no money for imports.

    Discussions of elections next year are extremely hypothetical.

  9. Disqualifying certain opposition candidates from running will likely be one of the methods Chavismo uses most. MCM and other leading opposition candidates will also simply not be allowed on the ballot and write-in votes will not be counted.

    I don’t believe Chavismo has a solid lock on 30% of the votes. The Venezuelan economy has not hit bottom. A detailed expose on the massive corruption and incompetence in this government combined with a a lack of food, medical care, and public safety will make even Chavistas rethink their preferences.

    On the other hand, if the Castros don’t live into late next year, Chavismo will be leaderless and the elections will be canceled.

    • The Castro influence is not mentioned that often on this blog. Is it just assumed that everyone knows it or is it a myth? Bill

  10. there’s a good chance the opposition could win the next elections. but also there are also good reasons why it could fail (internal division, lack of clear platform, distrust) –instead of facing these reasons, you’re already preparing your excuses for yet another defeat! one year in advance, you’re already getting your talking points in order, to be printed by the international press and internalized by every escuálido. you could win! but if you fall short, it’s fraud! way to have your cake and eat it too. what a bunch of sore losers. continue acting this way, you’ll surely lose.

    • None of the reasons you give for an opposition defeat, and therefore for a government victory, can possibly make up for the incredibly massive f**ck up this government has made with the economy. No government could possibly win a fair election having done what they have done.

  11. The international press are no longer writing about whether the Venezuelan is going to default, but when, and today, from a Bloomberg article, quote:

    A “massive default on the country’s import chain” is part of what has allowed the nation to keep paying its foreign bonds, Ricardo Hausmann, a former Venezuelan planning minister who is now director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said by phone from Boston. “I find the moral choice odd. Normally governments declare that they have an inability to pay way before this point.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-07/venezuelan-default-suggested-by-harvard-economist.html

    The election is not going to change anything one way or the other regardless of the outcome, no more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic could. There is going to be a massive economic catastrophe! Right now, published reports show that Zimbabwe is in better economic shape than Venezuela. See the chart: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2013-14/GCR_Rankings_2013-14.pdf

    How can the results of this election make a difference? Can a bankrupt government hold power?

  12. at the current rate it seems like they won’t need to do fraud anyway, oppo’s division is doing a great job consolidating chavismo’s power amid the crisis, besides, considering how gerrymandered the districts are, and how poor the opposition penetration on rural areas has been, the opposition would require a huge national majority to get most of the seats, even if they lose popular vote by 10 points they would do a nice job selling it as a victory if they gain a 1 seat majority.

    That said, at this momment I place no hope in those elections, I will wait a bit to see how events unfold.

  13. In a recent NYT article ‘Why Democrats cant win the House’ an explanation is made of how because the Democratic vote is concentrated in big cities and the Republican vote more spread out in smaller cities and the countryside this favours the Republican getting a house mayority even if overall the Democrats get more votes by getting bigger mayorities where it wins. This looks a bit like the situation in Venezuela where the Oppo vote is larger in big cities while the Chavista vote is larger elsewhere. Of course gerrymandering is also factor both here and over there. If we take the implicatins of this tendency , the oppo has to move aggresively towards contesting Chavistas the vote in those places where its mayority is slimmer and can shift to the opposition . Getting an overall mayority of votes may not be enough , you have to get more votes where it counts !!

  14. More than a sign of rigged elections, I see it as a blatant “we’ll do whatever it takes to stay in power” -including the rigging part, but not limited to it-. We saw them kill 60+, incarcerate thousands, torture several and, allegedly even disappear a couple.
    And if you want to stick to mere electoral examples, how about the redrawing of electoral circuits or constituencies for the Parliamentary Elections of 2010? The fracking of Maracaibo and Valencia, the inclusion of the Leoncio Martinez parish into Miranda’s 2nd Circuit. You can bet your bollocks to a barn dance that this is going to be the first big decision the new CNE will make in 2015; that or something like overruling the possiblity of primary elections being held.
    Regardless, it’s a blatant use of power to stay in power, and we will suffer it once again, on an unprecedented scale. Governments have three main sources of votes: charisma (our charming populism/caudillism), a good economical performance, and weapons. Period. We lack two of those, and in a country with 16 million+ weapons roaming the streets, I doubt it’s the latter.

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