The Model and Landslide Risk

In the current opinion climate, PSUV faces an electoral defeat of historic, system-shaking proportions. If anything, our model could be understating the scale of PSUV's defeat.


Logo AppHere’s a fact a lot of people haven’t quite digested: in the current national opinion climate, the government faces an electoral defeat of system-shaking proportions. Our Legislative Election Forecasting App is pretty emphatic about this: on the current 12% of people saying the country’s situation is positive, the only question is whether MUD piles up a two-thirds majority in the Assembly or not.

16 long years of powerlessness and bitter electoral disillusion have left many in the opposition unable to quite believe any such thing. A kind of collective PTSD has taken hold of us: we’re conditioned to expect the worst to come out of baranda time.

Common sense dictates that chavismo can never allow a major humiliation at the polls: they’ll either suspend the elections, steal them outright or come up with some other stratagem to nullify the looming humiliation. That’s obvious, right? That’s why they won’t allow a proper monitoring mission, right?

I myself started out the year sure they would find a pretext to not hold a vote. But I’ve had to concede that, under substantial international pressure, chavismo seems to have calculated that’s too big a risk: the plan sure seems to be to allow some sort of vote on December 6th. And because Venezuela’s electronic voting system amounts to the world’s most expensive pencil, it’s far from clear how a landslide MUD victory can be scuttled via fraud, at least via fraud that keeps even a minimal veneer of deniability.

There is a chance, then, that the government will lose, and lose big.

If anything, @Econ_Vzla’s model tends to understate the potential scale of the government’s humiliation.

The model can’t see any way PSUV can end up with fewer than 53 seats in the 167-seat National Assembly: 20 sure-thing list deputies, one sure-thing indigenous deputy, plus 30-something hardcore chavista circuits where people’s propensity to vote for PSUV doesn’t appear to be very sensitive to deterioration in the national opinion climate.

There are, after all, 33 circuits (representing 36 seats) where PSUV candidates scored better than 60% of the vote in December 2013’s regional elections. The model can’t see chavismo losing in places like that.

But some of the generic ballot polling we’ve been seeing at the national level suggests they might. Again and again we see MUD leading PSUV by 2-to-1 margins in the generic ballot question. The model bets that that margin will come from outsized super-majorities in urban districts that don’t add many extra deputies to the MUD haul. But there’s also the risk that the model se queda corto: that it understates the scale of MUD’s looming landslide.

I know it sounds like looney-tunes stuff to even suggest we could wake up with PSUV on 40-something seats in the National Assembly.

But then, is that really so crazy?

These people have destroyed the country. Everyone hates them. Nobody buys their excuses. They’ve messed up in the kind of quotidianity-destroying, rooftop-tile-style el-catire-arrecho absorbing way nobody can miss. The economy is in Greek-style free-fall: a 10% GDP contraction stretches the outer limits of the word recession and begins to look like an outright depression. It’s the worst year for the Venezuelan economy since records began to be kept.

Is it really so surprising that the government faces an unmanageable tidal wave of rejection in those circumstances?

A PTSD-stricken opposition will immediately start looking for reasons why this can’t really happen. You can hear the cries of “another dakazo!” from miles away. People will point to the border situation, to CNE’s perfidy, to any of a long list of very good reasons why a Tibisay-announced result can never be a 127-to-40 MUD win in the Assembly.

I get it that their preference will be to cheat. But cheating when you’re behind by 3 points is one thing. Cheating when you’re behind by 33 points is something entirely different. I see plenty of reasons to think the government’s bag of tricks could turn a 3 point defeat into a win. But we’re not in a 3 point election. We’re in a situation where clawing back 3 points through fair means or foul turns a 33-point drubbing into a 30-point drubbing.

People don’t vote for governments that wreak utter chaos and destruction on on their livelihoods. They just don’t.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. They don’t need to cheat to win, they’re going to cheat to squeak by and leave the MUD a less than 3/5ths majority.

    Then, before the election they’ll grant Maduro an “Habilitante” law to rule until his term is up.

    This way, they “preserve the forms” and can claim that the peole’s will was respected.

    Or, if they do indeed lose big, they’ll gut the Assembly and rule by Commune, as it is already the not enforced law that no one thinks about.

    • The results, I fear, go like this: By every possible means, including already accomplished gerrymandering and changing representation rules, and then a variety of outright cheating methods, PSUV will avoid getting less than 40% of the seats. Most international media will label it a victory for democracy and comment little on the fraud. The regime will then point to accepting these results as proof of their bona fide commitment to democracy (just like Chavez did when he was forced to accept his referendum defeat) while they continue to rule as the corrupt authoritarians they are through Habilitante..

      If only PSUV had as much integrity (or stupidity) as the Polish United Worker’s Party, which lost EVERY possible seat when they finally allowed a free and fair election in 1989.

      We’ll see. In any event, PSUV has never been in a position like this.

      • This scenario requires Maduro and Co. accept their limitations and to operate with some degree of subtlety. Somehow, I don’t see them doing this. Maduro’s recent rhetoric (“como sea”) is making this election a referendum on Chavismo itself. Anything less than a plurality of the seats will be an epic failure for them. And then, there is the popular vote. Four years ago, they lost the popular vote, but it was still close. If (even with all the tricks) they only get 30% of the popular vote, they will lose whatever legitimacy and mandate they used to have.

        If Chavismo were planning to accept the scenario in the comment above, they would currently be downplaying the importance of these elections, instead of the reverse.

        But, as you said, “We’ll see.”

  2. I think you are ignoring the fact that all these new circuits created by chavismo are made to benefit the hardcore chavista regions minimizing areas where psuv-mud proportion were balanced before. I think we will win the assemble but it will be close to 55-45 or 60-40, nothing beyond that.
    Anyway wining this election will not change much in Venezuela, the constitution is written in a way that the president together with the TSJ can rule the country without the assembly input.
    These guys are not dumb, they are very good and well prepared. That’s why they have been there longer than anyone else

  3. I dont see us getting 3/5ths. BUT If we do ‘win’, they’ll just depose the AN from any real power it might have and create some parallel institution controlled by them.

    Algo tipo: ‘El Congreso Revolucionario Endogeno Anti-Imperialista’.

  4. According to El Mago Jorge Smartmatic Legislative Election Forecasting App, plus the latest TibiBitch in-patient delusional ramblings, and the ‘2 pollos-por-voto PSUV’ electoral incentive program, here’s another prediction: a meaningless 55/45%, either way. It will be fun to watch.

  5. The conclusion of the article is pure common sense, but common sense doesn’t apply to Venezuelan politics. You are underestimating their organizational capabilities to get votes by pressuring their people, like they have done every single time in all elections they have won. Opposition since the beginning has been a strong half (or more than half) of the country, but never as organized and ruthless as the “revolutionaries”. The low commodity price cycles seems to be historical government changes. However, as incapable and ignorant this regime is, they are master’s at winning elections. I can only hope I’m wrong, and you are right.

  6. Boycotting elections, regardless of the greater scheme of things, is a terrible idea. Nevertheless I can’t blame anyone for being pessimistic; fraud happens, enabling laws happen. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t remember any latin american society, of our size and scope, in a similar position to Venezuela 2015. This is uncharted territory.

    Sure, the elections will establish a mandate but it will not be enforced in any way. If the whole-country-on-strike nuclear option did’t open a path to a transitional government what will?

    • The boycott in 2005 didn’t work because the so called “leaders” were too coward to lead the people to the next phase of the plan which was widespread street protests among all the country to force the regime’s downfall, they were threatened to be imprisoned if they continued to be “poniéndose cómicos” and sweeped the matter under the rug.

  7. What we need to know about the polls is: 1. The sketchy past of Venezuelan polling (we still have to rely on them, though), 2. The huge number of people who say they are going to vote for an “Independent” option (when in fact, the vast majority of those won’t probably show up to the polls on election day), 3. The structural advantage the PSUV has on rural areas (which you already mentioned and lowers the power of a MUD landslide) and 4. The “undecided” vote, which may very well be a case of the so called “Shy Tory” voter. The PSUV is right now in the 20s, but you and I know full well that, at the very least, they are going to be in the 30s (in fact I would see it as highly unlikely that they go below 40%); so the MUD’s 20-30% lead in the polls will probably be lower in the actual results.

    “People don’t vote for governments that wreak utter chaos and destruction on on their livelihoods. They just don’t.”. Well, I hope so.

  8. A few days ago I read in Aporrealos a guy listing all the wrong things that Maduro has done and how it has negatively affected the country. Ge went on like this for about a page and then in the last paragraph he goes and says that he’ll still vote for the PSUV. A great deal of chavistas are truly disappointed with Maduro and his government, but they fear the opposition because if we win we will hunt them down, make them “disappear” and what not. Also, many still blame the country’s economic situation on the “economic war” the opposition has been subjecting the country to.

  9. I hope I am wrong but I posted a lengthy response to the other post with the introduction to the forecasting model and it seems it did get lost!

    Basically my comment was on how elections serve such a great service to the regime by virtue of distracting people and giving false hope.

    I know I am a branded pessimist, but at this stage in the game, i hold no more naive thoughts on due process and respect fro fair play in this murderous regime.

    The chavista establishment will implode when they fight among themselves and when the angry mob overruns the violent repression to come. If the regime is lucky, they will manage to break down any resistance intentions before the revolt.

    They have already destroyed the economy and the purchasing power of any decent working Venezuelan and the coming famine will be well managed politically (think Stalin’s ukraine).

    I wish i am wrong and there is still the opportunity to a easier less traumatic transition, but I fail to see it. The regime has stated “como sea” and I think we remain too naive or scared to face the truth.

    As for Capriles and the god timing farce, good luck. When something finally happens he will say, I told you so.! good riddance!.

  10. They don’t have to cheat at a national level, all they have to do is cheat tactically in circuits where the election is really contested or in some backwater (Delta Amacuro and such) where MUD has little holding power.

    So by popular vote the opposition will win again and by a large margin, but they will probably be underrepresented in the assembly.

    However, such a victory may be pyrrhic, because the popular mandate will be quite clear against them. This paints them into the corner, continue to preside over an imploding economy as they have for 2 years or take the drastic and unpopular measures they have postponed for so long.

    Either way they may find el bravo pueblo esta bravo… and the military will have to decide go full Cuba or Arab Spring.

  11. Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela

    Titulo V:

    Capitulo II:

    Articulo 236:
    Son atribuciones y obligaciones del Presidente o Presidenta de la República:

    Numeral 21:
    Disolver la Asamblea Nacional en el supuesto establecido en esta Constitución.

    There 🙂

  12. Pretty sure Maduro will win. Almost certain. If they don’t they will just say they did anyways. If they can’t do that they will just create new laws that keep them around.

  13. “And because Venezuela’s electronic voting system amounts to the world’s most expensive pencil, it’s far from clear how a landslide MUD victory can be scuttled via fraud, at least via fraud that keeps even a minimal veneer of deniability”.

    Well, the infamous Fraudmatic contract cost Chavez and Tibisay at least US$141,356,604.54 plus the habitual bribes 90 Million here, 5 million there.. Ask Antonio Mugica, it’s a long list of Chavista military crooks involved, not to mention Jorgito and Delcy Rodriguez, well-trained in all the malware ruses up in splendid Boca Raton spa & massage resorts.

    Princeton, Harvard and numerous international expert computer science testers have demonstrated how easy it easy to hack these Olivetti/Sequoia/Dominion machines an electronic data transmission systems. Closed proprietary source codes, easy malware injections.. Piece of cake, even Delcy can do it, handing over the laughable “paper trail” to TibiBitch at lunch time.

    In my view, most knowledgeable electoral aficionados here, or Miguel, the Devil himself are underestimating the massive e-fraud capabilities of el Foro de Sao Paolo wicked little machines. I don’t think they have been used to their full potential yet, even during the last infamous “extra-innings”, late-evening prorrogas in Brazil and Vzla’s recent very close elections. The Fraud will be measured again this time, just enough to control power again, 52/48% or whatever, but since the aversion against Maduro is around 80%, this time the Chavezmatic final adjustments will have to be massive for the PSUV thugs just to break even.

  14. The regime will play the hardest fraud since maburro’s election in 2013 and the corpse’s infinite re-election reform, they’ll most likely reverse the whole numbers in their favor, giving communism like 70-80% of the whole assembly.

    • Its not the cheating that matters, but the reaction (and hopefully preparations for) to it.
      Its pretty obvious by now, the regime will “win it whatever!”

      The democratic and nationalistic forces need to come with “never mind, we collect!” strategies

  15. With the country circling the drain and flat broke, it is incomprehensible that the popular vote will go to the Red Shirts. I expect a thorough drubbing regardless of shenanigans. Maduro and others could not possibly devised a strategy to more effectively gut the country of resources, institutions and gente with actual wherewithal.

    But what happens to the military who have won such favor by rubber stamping chavismo? How do they respond when their orders come from that other camp? What happens if they refuse to comply? And what about all the free-loading Cubans? Tho opposition wants to run them out of the country but how do they enforce this exodus? And what about the judiciary, who has done the Reds bidding all these years?

    Unless there is an Abe Lincoln style reconciliation, a MUD landslide could result in some kind of chaos and at least for a while, the new leaders could win a mandate with no practical means to exercise same.

    Remember: nothing works in Venezuela. And despots and corrupt regimes like the Reds never give up power willingly.

    Let’s just hope the whole thing doesn’t have to melt down completely before the Phoenix might rise again with a few feathers intact.


  16. […] Time is running out not just for the government of Nicolas Maduro and the socialists, but also for Venezuela’s staunch ally – Cuba – which depends on economic aid from Venezuela to keep its economy afloat. A crucial mid-term election for Venezuela’s parliament is scheduled for December 6. A number of polls and experts have predicted a landslide victory for the opposition. […]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here