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.