And so we come to Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, which now may turn out to be more important than most people believed a month ago. One may argue about how many Governorships the opposition will win for hours (And I will) but in the end other things become more important, such as:
-The overall total vote by each side
-How Capriles performs on Sunday.
The first one, because it will determine how Chavismo plans its strategy going forward. Chavez won by 10.76% in the Presidential race in October, but Chavez is Chavez, and by now it is clear that when he is involved, the results are much different than when he is not. But Chavismo did manage to mobilize people like never before in October and thus will be watching what happens on Sunday with great care.
If Chavismo does not manage to get a huge advantage over the opposition (defined as more than 6% difference in the total vote) then Maduro could be in trouble in a one to one race and Chavismo has to regroup and redesign strategy. But if Chavismo gets more than 6% points over the opposition in the overall vote nationwide, then Chavismo will feel confident that Maduro can beat Capriles (or anyone) and the sooner the election takes place the better. And this is likely to be the result, as sympathy for Chavez’ illness and the mobilization of Chavismo will likely give Chavismo a bigger victory than it would have scored a few weeks ago. So look for Chavismo to seek a Presidential election sooner than you expect (How does February 11th. sound to you?)
The second will influence the first one. Capriles decided to run and now he must be worried. If he loses, he is toast. Forever!. If he wins by little, he is in trouble. If he wins big, he has survived one of the worst mistakes of his life.
But, how does it look?
Unfortunately, not clear. As in the Presidential election, abstention will be key. When Capriles beat Diosdado Cabello in 2008, he did it by 7% points, but abstention in this range favors the opposition and it was around 36% then, a huge number. And yes, some things favor Capriles over 2008: He is better known, he has been Governor since 2008 and has done a reasonable job and most of all, his opponent is as bad as they get.
But on the other hand, Chavismo is going to go all out to bury Capriles. Jaua may not be very likeable, but his image seems to be covering every single square centimeter of paper in the State of Miranda, save for toilet paper. And the number of refrigerators and stoves given away in the name of the revolution in Miranda since Jaua began running is staggering. Pollsters do not want to be too clear, they are cagy, saying their error is large in these regional elections. I have seen three polls and two give a large lead to Capriles and one says Jaua by a little, so I will have to go with a Capriles win.
Beyond that, it is hard to be specific. Analysts feel that Amazonas, Lara and Zulia are in the bag, but I am nervous about the last one. Beyond that, it gets dicey. It seems Carabobo and Nueva Esparta, sure things two months ago, are now questionable but doable. Merida is likely going for the oppo, Tachira will be a tough fight with Vielma Mora there and Anzoategui should be in the bag. Maybe Aragua will fall our way. Sucre is a long shot.
And that´s it
So, The opposition will be happy with four or five, elated with six or seven and, dream on, more than eight Governorships would be a true rush.
But I doubt we will come on the high end of things. The emotional turn out is likely to tip it the other way.
But in the end, it is abstention that will give you the number. In the 2008 elections for Governor, the States in which the opposition won, had abstention ranging from 31% to 40%. Any similar numbers and we get six to eight States. Bring it down to 25% abstention and we will be happy with four or five. Any higher and it gets scary. As in susto!
So, that´s my take. Hope I am wrong!
But as you can imagine, I will be there, would not miss this vote for anything. I am a democratic addict!