Another Dakazo?

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The episode is seared into the
opposition’s collective psyche: with his approval ratings already in freefall, Nicolas Maduro headed into state and local elections in late 2013 facing a certain drubbing. Then, at the last minute, he had a great idea. Inviting people to quasi-legally loot a popular electronics-and-appliances chain of shops would be sure to reverse his fortunes: everybody loves free stuff.

The Dakazo was born, the poll slide reversed, however briefly, and the government coasted to another comfortable election win.

Could it happen again?

It’s doubtful. Here’s why.


Dakazo Better

Just before the Dakazo, the opinion climate was pretty bad: just around 30% of poll respondents said the country’s situation was positive. The state-sanctioned looting of Daka saw a six point jump in this positive evaluation of the country’s situation to 35% – I’ll refrain now from a meditation on how screwed up that is on a human level, for now let’s treat it as data.

35% positives on a country-situation poll-question is decent territory for the government. With the help of its elections machine, and with idiosyncratic factors like that year’s low opposition turnout following the April presidential debacle, 35% was the kind of ball-park where the government could be electorally competitive.

But 2015 ain’t no 2013. The government starts from a much, much lower base: a dismal 11.7% of people think the country’s situation is positive. Even a Dakazo that adds 6 points to that number only brings it to under 18%. In our Forecasting Tool, that’s consistent with a 100-to-67 opposition landslide on December 6th. Hell, even if the government managed to have a double-dakazo, one that doubled people’s perception of how positively the country is doing, it would still be looking at losing the assembly 96-to-71.

So the starting point is realizing just what a dark pit of a Public Opinion Climate abyss the government is starting from. This, I think, remains badly underappreciated by an opposition commentariat beaten into Learned Helplessness by the last 16 years. The government isn’t “a little bit behind” – it’s nowhere near striking distance of being competive this year.

And it isn’t surprising. They’ve presided over the implosion of the Venezuelan economy and to the edge of a hyperinflationary precipice. What woulbe remarkable is if they weren’t light years behind in opinion terms.

Even if your theory is that the government can circumvent its deficit with the kind of mass-scale fraud that turns a 50-seat-deficit into a win (and to be sure Venezuela has never experienced election fraud on anything like that scale) you have to wonder: with what manpower?

Fraud in Venezuela is a labor-intensive, center-by-center process. The chavista machine is reeling from the economic collapse as much as anyone else. You can’t answer a toque de diana if you’re standing in line for milk.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Based on a purely country-situation-perception criterium, which is what our election prediction tool is using, your analysis is accurate. If you take our country’s economic situation into account, then a Dakazo-style move would not only be insufficient in tilting results this time around, it’s also financially impossible. While I hesitate to exclusively attribute the chavismo landslide in Dec. 2013 elections to the Dakazo (there were glaring missteps in opposition political leadership that even HCR admitted to), I never discount the lengths to which this government is willing to go to in order to maintain power. Which is why I am convinced that this year’s Dakazo will not come in the form of a throw-money-at-the-problem-style gig. They have very little of that to go around. This year’s Dakazo will come in the form of political persecution (I think we have yet to see many more inhabilitaciones to come), expropriations, rash public policies such as the OLP, and an good old Habilitante Law approved one week before parliamentary elections. Chavismo knows it’s weak in the polls, and that a low voter turnout behooves them. They will do everything in their power to demoralize the opposition electorate leading up to December 6, since they have nor the money nor the substance to grow their base instead.

    • You may never “discount the lengths to which this government is willing to go to in order to maintain power” but F. Toro in his analysis does it and so, he is wrong. He also says that voting Chavismo in exchange for being allowed to loot shows how “screwed up that is on a human level” but he doesn’t want to meditate on this, at least not today… but he should because that’s la madre del cordero, in Spanish from Spain (that meditation would make by the way a great article in any future The Veneconomist)

      • Look, I’m absolutely on the record doubting whether they really will hold an election this year precisely because the Opinion Climate is so extremely hostile to them right now. I started saying this pointed towards a cancelled election in February!

        But it does appear that they are moving ahead towards a vote. A vote that, plainly, they have no chance at winning, or at even coming close to winning. Are these facts in tension with one another? You betcha! But they are what they are.

        The lazy approach to this question is the Hand-Waving, well-they’ll-commit-fraud-somehow-don’t-bore-me-with-the-details approach. That I absolutely don’t go for. We understand enough about the election system in Venezuela to grasp that if you’re going to commit fraud, if you don’t want it to be entirely out in the open, you need to cheat voting center-by-voting center. But the same opinion climate that makes it impossible for them to win outright will also make it impossible for them to mobilize the people it takes to cheat in that kind of retail way.

        I think Emi is right in that this leaves mass-disqualifications, Iranian style, as their most likely course of action. That we’ve seen signs of, and I think it’s likely they’ll continue to go in that direction. Maybe they calculate that that’s less destabilizing than the alternatives. Maybe they’re even right about that.

        But an economic-goodie-rabbit out of the hat? They’re just too far behind for that…

        • people who send colectivos to kill students during the protests, don’t provide medicines for the hospitals or send to jail opposition members they don’t give a shit about your fraud calculations and losing your time making with them indicates that you are aware of what is happening, like everybody else, but you don’t want to know it.

  2. people who send colectivos to kill students during the protests, don’t provide medicines for the hospitals or send to jail opposition members they don’t give a shit about your fraud calculations and losing your time making with them indicates that you are aware of what is happening, like everybody else, but you don’t want to know it.

      • Maduro has the capacity to decree, whenever he fancies, that he is going to postpone the elections or simply get rid of them altogether for whatever reason. I would never dare to question that. He has already said that only tolerates victory, that chavismo will be in power yes or yes, etc. In my view, the situation is much worse than the suppositions underlying F.Toro post. You buy them but I don’t do it.

  3. The Dakazo is surely last year’s tactic. It’s hard to imagine Maduro telling people that he wants to see “every shelf bare” like last time; it’s too evocative of the economic situation overall.

    I think the easiest way forward for them is voter suppression. Set up only half as many voting posts as last time, discourage people from coming out to vote, maybe send them to the wrong place so they get discouraged?

    Voter suppression has the advantage that it does more with less; you don’t need the toque de Diana. But the downside is that it shaves only a few points from the results; when you are at 11% a jump to thirteen isn’t enough.

  4. We cannot discard that the regime will take whatever heinous steps are necessary to maintain themselves in power despite the terible toll to their political image and popularity , because one thing they cant avoid if they proceed with those plans is to make it obvious to everyone that they have retained power by soiling themselves with measures which smack of flagrant fraud and or ‘legalized’ terrorism, soemthing that will make it clear in everyone minds that they dont deserve to govern and that they have grabbed hold of power despite the rejection of the vast maryoirty of people .

    Ultimately the mass conviction that they are fraudsters and that they owe their maintenance in power to tricks deceits and acts of coercion will become a festering wound that poisons everything they do , that has people irritated and outraged against everything they do , so at some point it becomes an open invitation to rebellion , to soemkind of social explosion they cant control , they become fragile .

    There is a book by a famed newpaperman on how the movement that led to angolas independence happened , the police was acostumed to making arbitrary arrests to innocent people in the street , one time a policeman tried that and the persons he wanted to arrest simply refused outright saying ‘i am not going to be arrested , I wond have it and openly resisted arrest despite being beaten for it , he fought like mad and the people who where gathered in the street just exploded against the police and begun protest which caused the police headquarters to be assaulted and burnt down in the next 24 hourss.

    You abuse the system and abuse the system and think that you can hold on to power for ever and then the festering anger at the regime just crosses a threshold were people just dont care what happens and stop obeying and then policeman and soldier start siding with the rebels and refuse to repress them and then it becomes an stoppable snowball that makes thing happen . So even if the regime does things which rob the mayority of their capacity to institutionally make their presence recognized , a wound is oponed that at the beginning no one notices until one good unexpected them turns into rebellion even forces of th govt join .

    Look at what happened in Tunisia when a mans treweres were seized the owner humiliated and in response that men put fire to himself. So whatever the govt does by way of abusing its powers to prevent the mayority to express themselves or from having their votes count of whatever that will set off a time bomb that will be ready to explode without warning at some simple act of provocation .

    The struggle can become much more complicatd and extended than one might imagine . but whatver they do to defraud the mayority will will have consequence regardless of whether they make themselves felt inmmediately or later .

  5. It seems that my last comment to “Forecasting the 2015 National Assembly Elections” is more relevant here. It was a reply to Fefe:

    ===========

    I’ve been thinking about your prediction about what will the upcoming Dakaso be, and I think you are right. Abolishing private property is what they should do. Think of it:

    – Does this measure match the purported ideology? Profundizar el proceso. Check.
    – Is there any other asset they can give away in vulgar populist way? No, Venezuela is broke.
    – Would it rally enthusiastic support? If you live in a rancho and you think you are going to move into a nice, albeit crowded house in Prados del Este, of course you would.
    – Does the government care about the consequences and push back? No, they have nothing reasonable to do. Furthermore, if they do nothing they know they are doomed, so why not go all out with a kamikaze move? Even cornered rats do this.

    Five years ago I would have laughed at such thoughts as hysterical reactions of middle class donitas, yet every line that I think Chavismo would respect is eventually trampled over.

    Will Venezuela go Ceausescu or Kim Jong-un…

  6. “The government starts from a much, much lower base: a dismal 11.7% of people think the country’s situation is positive.”

    I’m fairly certain that this number will never fall below 10%. This hardcore, utterly brainwashed 10%, could be starving, laying in a gutter, with a pack of wild children getting ready to cannibalize their remains, and they would still say the country’s situation is positive. Their loyalty and self-identification with chavismo makes it impossible for them to ‘betray’ the revolution.

  7. El Dakazo has become like El Coco, I bet opposition moms in El Cafetal warn little kids about El Dakazo to get them to go to sleep.

    • But 18 months ago one thought, ‘sacudon y todo’, that they would drop the zany exchange rate and gas subsidies or else face collapse of the economy. Then once oil prices dropped, surely there is no way they will continue with this madness, yet here we are.

      Three years ago one would have never thought that people would be lining up to purchase food and toilet paper.

      Thirteen years ago, no one thought peaceful protesters would get shot, on camera in the street and get away with it and here we have Puente Llaguno heroes.

      Ten years ago, one would have never thought that a corrupt communist dictatorship would ever dare take power with the cast of clowns on the helm. Venezuelans with their democratic culture would not stand for it, and here we are “Patria, socialismo o muerte, no volveran”.

      Chavistas may just as well be El Coco.

  8. The conclusion is that a Dakaso of Electronic goods won’t be enough to close the gap.
    But a big enough Dakaso could close that gap and make it easier to do Fraud.
    To me the only logical step for the government is to eliminate the private property. Start occupying empty houses or houses with empty beedrooms. Chavistas will love this and is a Communist ultimate dream. They could also say that all the private companies are own by the workers.
    This to me will happen in October and will give the chavistas the boost they need. The opposition will be too dumbfounded to react.

    • I believe this is step 2, after the Cuban free food-rationing card/similar, post-election. The Govt. is already talking about a nice Boli-enchufados preferential $-skimming Pueblo food-giveaway scam: “La Cesta Alimentaria Socialista”-initially for Govt. employees (5 mill strong+families)-37 IMPORTED (to be substituted in 18 months by “national production”-lol) food packaged goods boxes every 20 days for the grand price of Bs. 1M; and, if all goes “well”, to be expanded to meats/chicken/grains, and even personal/household cleaning products–who needs a Dakazo, with this kind of promise??

  9. With 61% of the Asamblea seats in the Govt.-dominated Interior states, the Govt, doen’t NEED a Dakazo to win. “With the help of its elections machine…”–FT finally admitting the Smartmatic fraud, a Freudian slip? (yes, I know, he’ll say he means “election machinery”). I see a raise in the monthly minimum wage shortly before the Election to 10M, plus the Govt. natural advantages/fraud, giving the Govt. a win, unless they decide to allow a pyrrhic marginal/minimal/meaningless win to the Oppo (which I doubt).

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