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.