El tiro por la culata


The “new majority” in Venezuela, the MUD, had a thrilling victory on December 6th, taking home 112 of a possible 167 seats in the National Assembly. In the process, they proved that the over-representation that worked for chavismo so well in 2010 can and has backfired…with mind-boggling results.

The New Majority won in 17 legislative circuits it had lost five years ago. Three of those circuits elected three deputies, and six others elected two. The national vote was won with just over 7.7 million – about 350,000 votes higher than Capriles’ defeat against Maduro in April, 2013.

Why is it so important to keep these two facts in mind? Because even though they only raised total turnout by less than a half a million from 2013, they almost doubled the number of seats they had five years ago.

Malapportionment at its finest.

This isn’t meant to strip the MUD of its moment of glory, just to emphasize the fact that vote rigging, in one form or another, has disastrous consequences when you’re on the losing side. And chavismo caught a glimpse of the monster it created, and they did not like what they saw.

The economic crisis was the factor that swung voters our way. However, the need for change that MUD so emphatically sold was what kept them voting for its candidates instead of flocking back to the Revolution’s.

But it wasn’t just the gerrymandering.

Back in 2009, the rules of the game were modified and the government redistributed the electoral circuits that were to be used later on for the 2010 parliamentary election. This caused a huge uproar among dissidents, as it would lead to an over-representation of the least populated states in the country where chavismo was an overwhelming majority (something we call “malapportionment”). Simply put, they fixed the electoral map in order to guarantee the highest number of seats in the National Assembly, avoiding the need to fix elections.

Those same rules bit chavismo in the ass five years ago in Anzoátegui, Táchira and Zulia, where the then opposition was able to win all but six seats of the 30 available in those three states. This past Sunday was a much deeper bite on the derriere.

The 2.3 million votes gap in favor of the New Majority meant that the legislative branch would be held by just over 110 deputies, a tragedy for chavismo.

But all the system did was magnify a much more worrying outcome for the socialists, since they did indeed suffer their worst defeat in their history, and the second largest voting gap between two sides since Chavez’s win against Rosales in the 2006 presidential election.

MUD won with over 50% of all votes in 56 of the 87 circuits. Their turnout was 10 points or more than in 2010 in 38 different circuits, and it won with at least a 20 point difference in 29 of them. It grew in all but two circuits: Miranda 5 and Táchira 3. Even by the most liberal of estimates before the election, Caracas Chronicles’ included, this scenario was very unlikely.

We are talking of places that, had we said in 2013 we would win with ease, people would have laughed their asses off and stopped taking us seriously. I mean, Catia, 23 de Enero, Maturín, Vargas, Guarenas, Southern Valencia, rural areas of Aragua or Lara? How the hell did we make that happen?

It didn’t hurt either that MUD’s claims to certain parts of the country were reinforced with a much higher number of voters. Comfort zones outperformed themselves, this time with significant results: Miranda 2 (an Área Metropolitana de El Cafetal of sorts) blasted a jawdropping 84.87% (3.16% higher than 2010); Carabobo 3 (Naguanagua) hit the 80.91% mark (6.83% growth vs. 2010); Zulia 6 and 5 (the eastern end of Maracaibo) reached 79.06% and 78.42% respectively (+9.89% and +8.61%), to name a few. Even unpopular figures within MUD produced pretty damn decent results, such as Henry Ramos Allup’s 69.8% in Capital District 3 (+5.28%)

A day to remember for all sides involved: the victors now control legislation and will do much to trump whatever chavismo plans to arbitrarily implement. The defeated are staring down a long road ahead, and what’s at the end of the road doesn’t seem to be that much better.

Next year, we will hold governors’ elections, and the possibility of the recall election is nigh. In two years’ time, municipal elections once again. And if this New Majority knows how to work with the people they’ll be representing, it shouldn’t be hard for them to place new figures at the state and local level. The likes of Jorge Rodríguez, Adán Chávez, Arias Cárdenas, Aristóbulo Istúriz, Vielma Mora, and company know it’s them who have to battle for office in spite of being there already.

The only way out of this hellhole chavismo placed itself in by believing in their own version of “no vale, yo no creo” would be to start getting shit done for once. They dug their own grave by spending lavishly on themselves rather than in the country, and this time around the bill was too high to bear for the average Venezuelan.

Ultimately, even chavista loyalty has its limits.

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  1. Well, the gerrymandering didn’t backfire that hard on chavizmo this time:

    They claim they had 42% of the votes, which lead them to have 55 seats, but 42% of 167 is 70,14, which means their own gerrymandering made them lose 15 seats.

    On the other hand, in 2010 that part of the fraud was a total demolition for the opposition, because with 52% of the votes we couldn’t get even half of the seats.

    • It would’ve meant a dull, bland, simple majority for MUD, not pretty much owning them. And given the context these elections took place (rampant inflation, scarcity and economic collapse), 70 curules would have been a major win.

  2. About the gerrymandering and why the opposition is over-represented. I think it has been discussed here in the past that the first thing that affects proportional representation in Venezuela is the Constitution itself that mandates 3 MPs from each state, regardless of its population. I think some pieces here mentioned that this influences the uneven distribution way more than the gerrymandering, and it has been lost in the agenda that the only way to have a proportional representation system (which will never be perfect as proportional representation is not the only goal when designing election systems) is to amend the constitution in this regard.

    • Exactly, this was in fact included to compensate for the loss of the good ol’ cámara del senado. Even though it doesn’t benefit urban-dependent opposition, it does make sense if you want to have a “””federal””” state (something we’re far from achieving… But still in the Constitution). That’s the reason why a person from Wyoming has 60 times more voting power than a voter from California.

  3. This election system is not representative. The opposition got 67% of the National Assembly with 56% of the vote. In theory and with both parties being in the losing end at least once there should be a willingness to change it.

    Fully representative system would means one national list and one vote. The seats are distributed based on national vote. Small third parties will some support will get representation in the National Assembly. The problem is that no one knows who his representative is.

    Fully nominal system. People would vote for one and only one candidate for their circuit. People will know who their representative is and could ask for solutions. This could cause some gerrymandering depending on how you draw the circuits. I would like to see every circuit to have the same number of people. The problem with this is that Apure, Amazonas and Delta Amacuro would have a lot less representatives.

    Because of how complicated the current blended system is some people had to cast up to 5 different votes the number of Null votes was very high 5%. The other systems would reduce this.

  4. “Gerrymandering at its finest.”

    Not really. No fue el gerrymandering lo que esta vez favoreció a la oposición. No. Fue el método uninominal más la legalización de las morochas como norma distributiva (que no restan los diputados uninominales para la distribución de los votos lista). De hecho lo que salvó al oficialismo de una derrota más aplastante es la grosería constitucional de que casi la mitad de los diputados (43%) se eligen ignorando el cociente poblacional de cada Estado.

    Sin gerrymandering (con los circuitos electorales pre-2010) el gobierno habría obtenido aún menos diputados de los que obtuvo.

    • Es interesante tu punto de vistar, habria que analizar en base a los resultados actuales tomando en cuenta la distribucion de los circuitos electorales vs la distribucion de los circuitos electorales pre 2010.

  5. I hope the MUD has the vision to fix this HUGE problem. Eliminate voto Lista and work out a criteria to appoint seats based on population (maybe lowering the state’s minimum to two MPs instead). But the electoral games have to be won fair and square. Not to mention that fixing the present situation would make it even harder for Chavismo to come back!

    • But if you take out voto lista, how are going capodado and perro carroña going to get elected to continue stealing and paying their vacations in Europa?? D:

  6. As a resident of Carabobo 3, I have to say I feel insulted you chose to identify it with Naguanagua. How dare you! On a more serious note, it’d be better to call it just “Northern Valencia”.

    This is a well written article. The only thing I would correct is the fact that there is another circuit aside form Táchira 3 (its loss caused by a heavy split of the oppo vote) that grew more chavista, and that was Miranda 5. It was quite unexpected, at least for me.

    • Sorry about the Northern Valencia ordeal, José! Duly noted.

      Regarding the results in Miranda 5, you’re right. It must have slipped under the radar somehow. Thanks for noticing!

  7. To most of us addicted readers of Caracas Chronicles the premise put forth a few months back that the opposition had a shot at getting a 2/3 majority seemed absurd, ridiculous. The idea of such an overwhelming potential victory was posted by Toro and Nagel, with accompanying statistics and logic. Those with common sense among the readership, ahem, didn’t believe a word of it. It seemed logical to assume that the Chavista’s would never allow such a thing to happen, …ever. But, they did. That’s the REAL question here. No one can believe what was just allowed to happen. Why in the hell did they permit this unmitigated disaster, the election, to take place? IF CC saw the potential handwriting on the wall, why couldn’t they? What it really says is that these clowns really don’t have a friggen clue as to what they’re doing. Not with elections. Not with the economy. Not with anything. The Chavista’s are the Cuckoo’s Nest of world governments. Jaw-dropping stupidity. Dullards with an agenda.

    • “It seemed logical to assume that the Chavista’s would never allow such a thing to happen, …ever. But, they did.”

      But, did they allow it? Or were they forced to allow it by Padrino and company? I was certainly skeptical of this result ever being allowed to happen and dismissive of all the statistical evidence/articles put on this site as I thought it was ultimately irrelevant and pointless. I was wrong. Fortunately the good people at CC and in the opposition knew better than I did.

      I think I underestimated the overconfidence and complacency in high levels of Chavismo. If they couldn’t see this coming they truly are clueless.

      In any event, here we are. Thank goodness.

      • I’m not entirely sure of the whole “the Army prevented the fraud” discourse. The results we simply too one-sided to hide, and I’m positive that stealing the election would have led to a much more volatile situation that if they’d simply admit defeat.

        I am indeed baffled by how confident they were right up until midday, when they realised people weren’t showing up at all.

        Thanks for commenting!

    • One of the fundamental weaknesses of tyrants is that they have a tendency to kill the messenger. People who don’t tell them what they want to hear don’t last long. As a result, they lose touch with the real mood of the public. They give speeches to audiences packed with selected cheering supporters. They sit in meetings with subordinates who paint overly rosy pictures of the actual situation. The reports they receive from the state bureaucracy are carefully crafted to conceal the truth, in order to protect the collective asses of said bureaucrats. Little by little, the tyrant loses contact with reality. When the crude reality finally presents itself, it comes as a very nasty shock. Maduro and Cabello are still assimilating that shock.

    • I’m sure they must’ve had SOME sort of siren going off, they just ignored it. After all, they do have a lot on their plates, don’t they? I mean, half of them are wanted for drug trafficking, the other half are too worried with how bad things have gotten that who really has time to actually function? Something had to slip through the cracks.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Just a point to say in favor of non-proportional electoral counting. Whatever disfavors the minority can be helpful in avoiding legislative gridlock! Just a point to mention.

  8. It will be a full-on battle, for sure. But the fact that we will have a full on battle is already a step forward. Had we lost or not won by the same margin as we did, we might be discussing how little we could do. It won’t be easy but I’m not as pessimistic, although there are several reasons to feel that way. I’m not saying things are fine and dandy as of Monday, but it was a vital win, and one that will allow a more thorough debate, somewhat of a sense of governance, and hopefully, a more logical expenditure. Menos fusiles, mas patrullas; that sort of thing.

  9. There is so much to do to start to get a handle on making the country run again, it would not surprise me to see nothing done about the gerrymandering and malapportionment that we have in place now.

    Also, it might be tempting for the Oppo to keep the system in place as a way of keeping the assembly away from chavistas. While right now that seems like a good thing, it may come and bite them in the ass 5 years from now.

    Regarding what’s in store for Venz., I tend to come down on the optimistic side of things. To get things going we are going to need both blue and white collar skills.

    While it’s true that we’ve lost quite a few white collars to emigration, not very many blue collar folks have left.

    Welders, lathe operators, skilled construction, carpenters and other skilled labor are still in country, and they are just as necessary as managers to get productivity going.

    Expect to see lands returned to their rightful owners, that with some help can be productive again in one season.

    Many mothballed factories are just waiting for the juice to be turned on, and while not 100% efficient the “priming of the production pump” should see a turnaround quicker than you may think.

    I get that it’s not going to be easy, nor a question of simply throwing money at things, but it is doable.

    Additionally, I expect we’ll see multilaterals and IMF, etc. making much needed hard currency available down the road to aid in re-construction.

    Certainly 2016 is going to go down as the worst in many a moon, but hope springs eternal. There’s going to be growth laced with many opportunities for the ones that position themselves intelligently.

    I for one am looking forward to re-building our country.

  10. Diputado representative-ness and proportionality discussions are secondary IMO to actual legislative and controlling functions of said diputados.

    If we really want to re-build our country, we need to demand a very high standard of these still-to-take-charge diputados and a new opposition led assembly.

    La bancada de la unidad, needs now to continue to perform in unity, with 2/3 voting poser anc exercise the full extend of its qualifications, according to law and constitution, in WHAT is priority come January 5.

    We have already seen the big circus production that await us (ANTV-TVES incident) and how all media and war room resources from the regime are going into overdrive to build a narrative tat involves the asamblea as the new derecha, the new imperio and the reason why the goo old revolucionarios are prevented from fulfilling all their pipe dreams.

    Another example being the myth creation of Padrino -the -saviour, and all the meta messaging associated to the military and the strong-man constructs.

    The new asamblea, if and when gets sworn in and with whatever resources and mandate its finally activated, needs to be aware of how much they will become the chinito de Recadi for all that has gone wrong and for the coming implosion.

    With this said, waht I agree is that at least we have won a right to fight the fight, and that +50% of the political spectrum has now the opportunity to play a part, lets be self aware and not fall into the part of an Actor de reparto, in a larger narrative advocated by the regimes strategy.

  11. LKY, this was an appropriate comment, and you made the comment section richer for it. Furthermore, in the past I recognize SOME of your comments to be quite good and colorful.

    Now we are all friends, and let’s move on 🙂

  12. Thank you for posting this.

    It would have been really something…

    if chavismo,
    foreseeing the size of the electoral drumming,
    would have pulled the ultimate dirty trick before the elections:

    To change the system and make it truly fair and proportional.
    That would have been a master move (Capablanca would have been proud).

    Sometimes the most maquiavelic move is to be good and fair.

  13. It grew in all but two circuits: Miranda 5 and Táchira 3
    Interesting that you would cite Miranda 5, because Miranda 5 was in 2010- and also in 2015- one of the most egregious examples of Chavista gerrymandering, where a Chavista-leaning Circuit had markedly fewer registered voters than a MUD/Oppo leaning Circuit.

    According to both ESDATA and to CNE, in 2010 the Miranda Circuits awarded 2 Assembly seats were Miranda 2 and Miranda 4. As far as I can tell for 2015, according to CNE, Miranda 4 and Miranda 6 are the Miranda Circuits with 2 Deputies. Surprise of surprises, Miranda 2, the Circuit which lost a Deputy, was Oppo in both 2010 and 2015. Similarly, Miranda 6, the Circuit which gained a Deputy in 2015, was Chavista in both 2010 and 2015.

    Registered voters/ ELECTORES ESPERADOS # Deputies

    Miranda 1 294,173 1Unidad/MUD
    Miranda 2 435,755 1 Unidad/MUD
    Miranda 3 329, 301 1Unidad/MUD
    Miranda 4 351.844 2 Unidad/MUD
    Miranda 5 173,223 1 PSUV
    Miranda 6 295.022 2 PSUV
    Miranda 7 163,102 1 PSUV

    (Data from CNE website)

    When you add up the Registered voters in Miranda Circuits and compare with # of Deputies according to which party took the Circuit, you get the following.

    Registered Voters # Deputies
    Oppo/Unidad/MUD Circuits 1,411,073 5
    Chavista/PSUV Circuits 631,347 4

    Registered Voters per Deputy

    Oppo/Unidad/MUD 282,215
    Chavismo/PSUV 157,837

    Conclusion: In 2015, Chavismo was still able to extract unfair advantage out of gerrymandering.


  14. Why did this result happen? Why did the chavernment not make certain of its victory?

    The chavernment had a line to walk.

    They had many ways to tilt the election: the massive state-owned media apparatus propagandizing for them; cronies taking over the private-sector media; unlimited state funds and resources for the use of their campaign operations; “ghost” and “assisted” voting at polling places they controlled, with paramilitary goons to exclude opposition watchers. All these they could use and still claim legitimacy for the result. As has been noted here, votes were cast freely and the physical machinery of the election recorded them accurately, and that was enough for the likes of the Carter Center etc.

    Between these tools, the memory of Chavez, and the appeal of the misiones and other giveaways, the chavernment thought they could win, as they had in the past.

    There were more drastic measures they could take: arresting MUD candidates or workers on bogus charges, disqualifying MUD candidates, running multiple dummy parties, massive fraudulent voting, blatantly cooking the numbers – but these ran the risk of delegitimizing the result, and the chavernment largely avoided them.

    By the time that the shift to the MUD was apparent even to them, it was too late for many of these measures, and very late to prepare for others. I think also they realized that many of their low-level agents who get voters to the polls were going to sit out the election. The chavista leadership lacked the willpower to act as ruthlessly as their situation required; they feared the international reaction. They were paralyzed, and all they could do was hope that the election would turn in their favor.

    • Do not forget a very important factor that ended to drive away many of their own base to vote for the MUD: The constant cruel mockery towards the hardships that are the result of the chavizmo policies, such as colas, scarcity, insecurity, uncontrolled inflation and widespread corruption.

      chavizta base is by definition vengeful, it’s been driven by a desire for payback since they flocked around the figure of shiabbe, which offered them to enjoy their revenge against the sifrinos they hated so much, but now the chavizta big fish made the idiotic mistake of applying the same “chaburro attitude” towards their own base, cynically disregarding problems happening on their own faces and treating anybody who dared to think as traitors and that bullshit.

      chavizmo itself is going to devour and estroy itself, because it was never intended to create any good thing, it’s built as sort of “hatred-politics”

      • I’m not that grim about chavizmo base. It’s basic supply and demand I think. If the product they don’t want is what’s being offered, they won’t buy it, and when you have these guys saying que las colas son sabrosas, its kinda hard not to walk away.

  15. Actually, the wins in Southern Valencia an in one of Venezuela’s largest cities, Maturin, are not so surprising. I will post about it soon but just do a little exercise and plot the attained percentage since 2012.

  16. Excellent article! If we want to turn our government into a real democracy we need to fix this kind of “Malapportionment”. On one hand we can celebrate now that we managed to get 112 sits but it’s important to make sure this doesn’t come back to hunt us like it did just now with Maduro.

  17. I’m new to CC, so I don’t know whether people here are aware of this blogger (Disclaimer: I don’t agree with him, just wondering, since it has high enough profile to write in “The Hill”, that is a website with some following) and since the topic is relevant to what is being discussed here…


    (insist, I DON’T agree with him, just curious about someone advertising this position)


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