As my husband and I get to the voting center, we notice very few cars parked outside — and even fewer voters inside.
“Ocariz might actually lose this thing” I said, remembering my piece from a couple of days before.
Just as Tibisay Lucena announced Hector Rodríguez as the winner in Miranda, our state, I felt a pit grow in the bottom of my stomach, and I had to spend the next day talking to friends and looking at the available data, trying to figure out what the hell happened in Miranda.
Theory 1: The CNE did its thing
The National Electoral Council (CNE) implemented several strategies, before and during the process, to promote abstention and null voting among the opposition.
Quoting Carlos Ocariz, “fue un sistema [de votación] absolutamente amañado”.
It’s true that the CNE didn’t allow the replacement of candidates in the ballots. However, there were 18,000 votes for other non-PSUV candidates — and Rodríguez’ advantage over Ocariz was over 86,000 votes.
A better mobilization scheme and the proper training of testigos might have made the difference
Not using indelible ink, a decision made a month before the elections, might have allowed the PSUV to do some multiple voting, a strategy already denounced, especially in densely chavista areas. Ocariz said he has proof, but we’re still waiting, and we might never know how many, if any, of Hector Rodriguez’ votes came from multiple-voting.
Although it might be a rather imperfect and limited strategic response, a better mobilization scheme and the proper training of testigos might have made the difference. I know it’s easier said than done, and some might even call me naive, but we still have to say it, over and over and over again.
The relocation of voters, of course, affected the results.
According to journalist Eugenio Martínez, 51 voting centers were relocated in Miranda. This move affected 11.2% of registered voters. However, if we assume, hypothetically, that all of these relocated folks chose to abstain, there are still over 620,000 voters that didn’t show up.
Ocariz said he has proof, but we’re still waiting, and we might never know how many, if any, of Hector Rodriguez’ votes came from multiple-voting.
And then there’s violence. Voters being robbed and intimidated, polling stations opening earlier and closing after they should have, puntos rojos (spots where the PSUV promoted their candidate on election day), no international observers and the use of CLAP boxes to bribe people. All of these must be condemned.
But is it any different from what we’ve seen before? Shouldn’t the MUD have some sort of response ready for this?
Theory 2: Ocariz se confió
Miranda, which was taken from chavista hands in 2008, was a consolidated bastión de la oposición, with the Sucre municipality, home of the biggest slum in Venezuela, conquered that same year.
Since Ocariz and Capriles are somewhat popular, you could think that this was in the bag.
However, while Rodríguez won in 14 municipalities, with a participation level of 66.1%, Ocariz won only in seven, with a 52.9% of participation. Also, when taking a closer look at the results from Sucre, Ocariz, the current Mayor, won with a very slim advantage of 1,550 votes (0.6% of valid ballots).
MUD took in 838,292 votes in Miranda for the Parliamentary Elections held in 2015. That means Ocariz took in a little over 283,000 votes less than MUD did in 2015.
Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo and Sucre are four opposition-governed municipalities, where 41.92% of Miranda’s registered voters live. Over 49.5% of them didn’t show up. That’s 50.1% of Miranda’s total abstention.
Did emigration play a role? In the plebiscite of July 16th, 724,067 Venezuelans voted from abroad. If, according to CC’s own Lissette González, we assume the same proportion for the whole population, Venezuelan emigration could be around 1,149,579 émigrés — and registered voters cannot participate in regional elections from abroad.
Then again, MUD took in 838,292 votes in Miranda for the Parliamentary Elections held in 2015. That means Ocariz took in a little over 283,000 votes less than MUD did in 2015. Unless 283,000 Mirandinos left the building in the last 2 years, this represents a whole bunch of MUD voters that are not thrilled with their leaders, resorting to a no-voto castigo (or simply didn’t see the point of voting).
Theory 3: The PSUV knows how to win
It’s true that the government is struggling through the worst economic crisis in our history, with very few dollars left in its pockets, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t play the electoral game with total conviction. ¡Eficiencia o nada!
Chavismo might not be able to know who you voted for, but making people believe that it can might just be convincing enough for some to vote red.
The PSUV and most government institutions have a well-structured mobilization scheme, and coercive incentives to promote voting. These include, for example, the threat of losing your job if you’re a public servant. Let’s not forget that the public payroll is huge.
I also think the Carnet de la Patria plot worked; chavismo might not be able to know who you voted for, but making people believe that it can and adding the fear of losing access to basic goods and services (like CLAP food bags), might just be convincing enough for some to vote red.
Not exactly a fraud
All three theories have varying levels of substance. In the end, though, it all comes down to abstention. The opposition turnout was lower than expected.
Now, instead of pointing fingers at those who didn’t vote, shouldn’t opposition leaders ask themselves: why didn’t more of our followers join us?
Because antagonizing the people you need is really not going to help you.