Venezuelan Election Postmorten: Maduro Ain’t Chávez

April 21, 2013

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Independent of the outcome of the audit (Just think, besides the irregularities and votes abroad, 166,000 people could not vote because the border was closed ahead of time and 140,000 new voters were not allowed to vote, despite the law saying they could) Nicolas Maduro starts his term weakened by the close electoral result, his backtracking on the audits and the protests and the questioning of his victory. Had he allowed the recount on day one, he would be in a much stronger position, even if still quite weakened by the fact that his candidacy lost some 600,000 votes from the October Presidential election.

Maduro won in 16 states, while Capriles won in eight states, but the latter are the most populous and urban states in the Nation. Among large population states, only Carabobo went for Maduro and in that State is where the opposition appears to have the largest numerical inconsistencies.

Maduro was a very inexperienced candidate and that had a lot to do with his narrow victory. In contrast, Capriles started out weak last year in his campaign against Hugo Chavez, but improved dramatically as the election approached, Maduro had never been involved in a large campaign and the electorate did not get a clear picture of who he is, other that Chavez’ chosen successor. Maduro tried to be Chávez, but he is only a bad imitation, without the quickness, the wit or the charisma.

Maduro´s weakness began in January, when he started out on the wrong foot, as the Venezuelan Supreme Court created the concept of continuity to justify Maduro becoming interim President and guarantee that he would be President and candidate at the same time.

Maduro’s campaign began by appealing to the emotions associated with Hugo Chavez’ death. But he went too fast from mourning to singing, sending a mixed message to the electorate. Moreover, he never defined who he is, trying to sell himself as the son of Chavez, his successor, without clearly explaining what that meant. Voters really knew him very little, since as Foreign Minister he has not been in the public eye in the last six years and he presided over the country for the last three months, a period in which inflation and shortages have increased significantly. (The Venezuelan Central Bank did not report the shortage index in March for the first time in years, inflation was 2.8% that month)

And people were never too satisfied with the announcements of Chavez’ illness and the constant assurances that he was recovering, only to die on March 5tth. And while the long funeral gave people a chance to grieve and pay their respects to the leader, Easter week, a vacation week in Venezuela, broke the mood and by the time it was over Maduro’s campaign seemed to change, talking more about Maduro, son of Chavez, than about how much Chavez was missed. In the end, he never explained who he was or why he deserved to be chosen by Chávez.

And Chávez can also be blamed for the failure. Clearly, Maduro was not the best choice and he never explained beyond his loyalty, why Maduro should be the successor. Because loyalty was the only reason Maduro rose in the Chavista hierarchy. He did what Chávez asked him to do. He never questioned anything. Clearly, Chávez somehow thought he would not die, but not considering the possibility and announcing or even just promoting his successor earlier, now has a big political cost. In fact, even refusing to accept he would never go back to the Presidency had a cost. Had he stepped aside and an election held in February with Chávez alive, would have guaranteed a more ample victory for Maduro.

Time always was Maduro’s worst enemy.

Capriles on the other hand, reignited the opposition by frontally attacking Maduro, something he never did with Chavez. He managed the timing of the campaign very well, even beginning with an intrigue campaign the first weekend, creating the impression he had not decided whether to run or not. Two days later the MUD told him he was the candidate if he wanted, which he readily accepted the same day. This allowed him to be on the forefront of the news while Chavez’ funeral was still taking place.He treated Maduro as an equal, while carefully respecting Chavez and his memory. And Capriles also talked more about the problems that concerned the people, mostly shortages, inflation and crime, which Maduro seemed to be avoiding or trying to blame the opposition for, while making a few gaffes which made him look bad.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is not that the election was so close, but that it was close because a significant number of voters shifted their votes from Chavismo and actually went and voted for Capriles. Before the election, and in the absence of detailed polls, it appeared as if Capriles’ only chance was for the Chavista light votes, the more independent minded voter, not to show up for the election.

But show up they did and to vote for Capriles, who actually increased his vote total, something that was not expected. In the end Capriles was up close to 600,000 votes, while Maduro’s total was lower than Chavez’ in October by a very similar amount. This was totally unexpected.

And polls were really off the mark in this election. You can blame the short period of the campaign or Easter week, but clearly they were not even close, with only two pollsters projecting a Maduro win by single digits, the closest being Datanalisis with a difference of 7.2%, outside the error of the poll

But as we suggested last week, none of these polls gave us an inkling of the electorate was thinking, particularly the voters in the middle, those that do not consider themselves Chavista, but traditionally voted for Hugo Chavez and did not trust the opposition. Abstention was 21% and continues to be the most difficult number to be precise about in Venezuelan elections. Polls said it would be 15%, history suggested close to 30%, but clearly people were engaged and interested in the electoral process, even in Chavez’ absence.

If the result stands, Maduro does not start his Presidency on the right foot. He did not get the mandate he wanted and it will be thus be much harder to press the revolution further, without a backlash from the population. Moreover, his handling of the recount issues and the protests has only undermined further his weak mandate.

Maduro also faces very difficult decisions on the economy, with shortages on the increase, oil dropping and inflation increasing and being felt by everyone. His best path would be to change course on economic policies, change the economic team and impose a new line of thinking to fix some of the distortions created by Chavez’ policies. But his weak mandate will make it difficult for him to change course, given the differences within Chavismo. And these are huge. But beyond that, people need jobs, infrastructure needs investment, a model of distributing a now decreasing amount of money is now doomed unless there is true change.

For the opposition this has been a huge victory. Not only did they manage to show the country is divided exactly in half, coming very close to a victory, but the audits may show an even weaker victory for Maduro, which will only damage the credibility of the Government. Furthermore, Capriles, who appeared to be the person with the most to lose in this election, has now become the rightful leader of the opposition. He may not have won the election on Sunday, but he won the recount fight, a political victory in a country where a single man has dominated all political battles for the last fourteen years.

Politics is back in Venezuela, as we said a few weeks ago and some people have to learn how to play politics again.

But the opposition also needs a model for the country. We all know the things that have to be changed, from the exchange rate, to the gasoline subsidy, to restoring the rule of law, to the oil subsidy for foreign countries, to the subsidy to money losing enterprises, to really improving the electric infrastructure, to fixing infrastructure and promote local production.

But to the poor of Venezuela, there has to be real change, not the small change of money in the pocket seen in the last fourteen years, while crime soared, blackouts increased, less housing was built, human rights violations boomed, corruption increased dramatically, fewer jobs were available and the dependency on oil increased even further.

Until such change occurs, political instability will be the rule of the day, no matter who is in power in Venezuela.

40 Responses to “Venezuelan Election Postmorten: Maduro Ain’t Chávez”

  1. Morpheous Says:

    You wrote: “For the opposition this has been a huge victory. Not only did they manage to show the country is divided exactly in half, coming very close to a victory, but the audits may show an even weaker victory for Maduro, which will only damage the credibility of the Government.”

    That sounds like you don’t believe Capriles actually won the election. Am I missing something? In my personal view, I think that Capriles won and that there was a gigantic fraud. Of course, the regime will do anything to hide the evidence.

    • moctavio Says:

      I think the audit will be very difficult to carry out in fairness. As I stated, what happens if after auditing 46% of the boxes Maduro’s victory is reduced to 80,000 or 100,000 votes?

      Nobody knows, these guys have all the judicial power on their side, the audit will show there was cheating but will it show enough cheating to have the Government accept it lost?

      Hard to tell.

      • moctavio Says:

        In any case, showing that the count was different and all of the irregularities will make Maduro even weaker right off the bat. Plomo en el ala, lots of plomo en el ala.


  2. Reblogged this on danmillerinpanama and commented:
    The situation in Venezuela puzzles me, perhaps at least in part because I haven’t been there for over a decade.

    This post provides a postmortem on the recent election there and on the “evolving” stances of the alleged winner, Maduro, and the Chavista hierarchy on whether to have a recount. We don’t know the parameters of the recount, but what might happen if Capriles is found to have been the winner? That seems unlikely – not because it is unlikely that he got a majority of the votes but because such things in Venezuela tend to be rigged to suit the Chavistas. Still, what might happen?

  3. Mick Says:

    The first change should be to stop being the Opposition and be for something. The Progressives, or the New Venezuelans, or The New Revolution. They need to stand for lower crime, more production, less corruption, and more opportunities for anyone. Hugo had the high ground, so everyone had to come to him. Now is when you start DE-legitimizing the incumbents and call them what they are. The corrupt ones, the cheaters, the thieves, the cronies. Equate Chavista with corruption and dishonesty. St Hugo did very well by making it a battle of good verses evil. It is time to do the same to the usurpers.

    • moctavio Says:

      You also need an economic model to follow to create jobs, improve efficiency, promote know how, have growth, create alternatives to just oil and promote local manufacturing and production.

  4. Alex (the other) Says:

    Victory or not, it’s six more years of Chavista policy which literally leaves out any possibility of any positive changes. I doubt he’ll even dare replace the current cabinet. It’s all the same, managed a guy called Maduro instead of Chavez.

    A Capriles victory and an immediate affirmation to protect private property and seek national unity would have already caused very positive expectations of a brighter future.

    That automatically would have opened the door to foreign and domestic investors. Besides, many expats would have activated their plans to eventually return to the country – bringing back both their money and knowledge.

  5. CarlosElio Says:

    The democratic forces need an agenda. Pick the next fight and concentrate the political discourse around that fight. It is today the biased electoral system wit its countless documented irregularities that dominates the political debate. Next, it could be dearth of basic household goods, or electricity, or something dear to the population on both sides of the political divide. The opposition has a chance to carry the political agenda.
    In chavez times, we would have by now another Totuma story, or vertical chicken pens, or a ship carrying diesel to Syria, or misión condón, or something ridiculous enough to capture popular imagination with added jokes and commentaries. But Maduro is far from those pirouettes, even if he wanted to. He is as charming as used toilet paper.

    • deananash Says:

      “Without vision, the people perish.” It says nothing about a good vision, simply a vision. You are spot on, this was part of Chavez’s “magic”.

  6. gordo Says:

    This post is very positive. Let me add to this optimism.

    As far as the economy is concerned, Maduro’s solution seems to be continuation of Chavez’s policies, but with more knowledge and better management. Clearly, that isn’t going to work.

    Promoting himself as another Hugo Chavez (which he isn’t), politically weakened by the election, a hair-trigger bully, who can’t get his facts straight… and the list can go on… doesn’t give anyone enough confidence for anyone to put their sweat and capital into his vision of Venezuela’s future.

    There seems to be a profound paradox that Maduro doesn’t realize he is trapped in by being elected to continue a legacy that is leading to imminent and certain disaster!

    When the disaster strikes, let us hope that Capriles will be the obvious successor to a clear majority that will endure. I know that once the rule of law, justice, property rights, respectable government institutions, balanced and responsible economic policies that enable sustainable economic growth…. then there will be a huge influx of capital, jobs, domestic production, and the realization of Venezuela’s huge reserve of natural resources that will hurl Venezuela as a Latin-American leader in the 21st century.

  7. JotaE Says:

    Miguel

    Thanks for this great re-cap.

    Even if the result of the election is not overthrown by the audit, there are many positive outcomes from these elections.

    Maduro has no option and every incentive to tackle many problems that he has had to acknowledge: crime, infrastructure, inflation, scarcity, etc. Unfortunately for him, to take care of these problems he needs to change the course of the revolution and he seems determined to continue digging a hole.

    The opposition continues its steady path of growth. Obviously using only one ballot was a great idea that needs to be maintained in the future. We now have to advance by taking as many spots in the upcoming regional elections and also focus on improving our presence in la asamblea.

    For the health of our democracy it is imperative that we renew the electoral council. Three of the five directors must step down this month as their term expires. The opposition should use its political capital in forcing the election of new members that can balance the institution.

    #PorUnArbitroJusto

  8. hosting@allnet4u.com Says:

    I inserted your link on a venezuelan friend facebook account


  9. [...]     Rough Start to Post-Chavez Era Augurs Badly for Venezuela (Reuters)                Venezuelan Election Postmorten: Maduro Ain’t Chávez                                                            El [...]

  10. HalfEmpty Says:

    Time always was Maduro’s worst enemy.
    And there you have it. The roller coaster is getting ready to roll to a stop.

  11. Roger Says:

    I have been reviewing the archives on this site and those of Dr. Daniel and the guys at CC. We have been dealing with this since the Recall Election of August 2004 which was just as muddy and provided Chavez to claim that 70% of Venezuelans were with him. Which continued even after he lost the election to change the constitution and later the popular vote for the Assembly. The latter violating the “one man, one vote” concept.
    Now we are, according to the available data, at a 50-50 split between the ruling party and the opposition. We know that the split is greater due to threats, gerrymandering, bribes and various forms of electronic ballot stuffing. We also know now that spying on voters has resulted in the loss of their jobs!
    To assume that this forthcoming recount not be fair, honest and transparent is a given. How those who study voting will process the data I do not know but, I am sure will be quite variable.
    I must comment on the graphic at the top of this post. Notice how small the Blue cylinder is at less than 1% difference. I guess the guy doing it pushed the 200LOG/10 button to create it!

  12. Roger Says:

    Not less than 1% on the graph. Sorry I have Polar Polio!!!

  13. concerned Says:

    The problem that will contiune to plague the democratic process will be the cne system in place now. I believe the ability to manipulate and control the vote is far greater than most comment on, and also for much longer than just this last election when there were more eyes on for the expected cheating that was to and did take place. I am not sure how this is planned to be delt with. It is not like the cne was duped and wanted the results to be accurate, they are part of the problem, and if Capriles does not come out of this on top and overhaul the cne, it will not change before any future elections. Why then would you expect the outcome to ever go in favor of whomever is opposition to the party in control?

    Secondly, chavismo will pull out all the stops to break Capriles and the opposition to make sure they will not be a threat short or long term. Globovision will be silenced, and Capriles may be looking for housing in Peru like Rosales, or maybe moving in with his sister in New York. Chavismo will use the violence that they orchestrated to imprison or exile Capriles, Lopez, and
    Falcon.

    I am not as optomistic as you about the future of the opposition if Capriles does not win with the “checkup” as it is now called, which I am sure they are working overtime to manipulate the results that will finally come out. They are not worried about the “checkup” that they agreed to, and that has me worried that it will just be more of the same BS.

  14. Mick Says:

    The real problem for Morales now is international perception. Sure the Chinese, the Russians, and the Iranians will endorse him, but most of Europe and the U.S. will have a hard time endorsing a president who blatently is democratically illegitimate. They would lose face politically in their own countries.

  15. Glenn Says:

    Miquel – who’s website created and posted the picture on your post. I’ve seen this many times and considered the propaganda impact of the lack of schedule between the 50 and 49% The drums should be the same size but are very misleading in their pictoral representation.

  16. xp Says:

    fifti-fifti
    share power, invite the electorate to the new
    vision of a united venezuelan dream.
    1. free the shackled exchange rate
    2. privatize the utilities, and offer incentives.
    3. sacudon a las fuerzas policiales/judiciales
    4. quick show trials in a few of the murders
    commited daily by lynchers.
    5. explain why gas should cost more, lower
    mass transportation to virtually zero, and jack
    price for gasoline to par with colombia.
    6. invite overseas compatriots to send money
    back to their struggling relatives…
    Could go on and on …
    Maggie died. Freebies
    and entitlements still reign.
    So looking on to the future,
    the abyss yawns even deeper,
    and venezuelan sovereignty will be
    replaced by the beggar’s mentality.

  17. island canuck Says:

    The world has literally come to an end.

    Today in Margarita there was no Polar by the case (returnable bottles).

    Due to the complete collapse of Conferry (expropriated a couple of years ago) there are no heavy trucks coming to the Island.

    After searching many bodegons from Playa El Agua to Pampatar we finally found one that had a case left of Polar Light.

    This is a more serious problem than all this voting stuff. :-)

    At least with beer we can survive the “es lo que hay”

  18. concerned Says:

    The ferrys are doomed for sure, and before long with no maintenance they will all sink like the one in front Puerto la Cruz. I haven’t been over to the island in years since the government took the Hilton, but the condition of the one fast ferry running at the time was total neglect.

    Polar will surely be back in the governments sights again, so the only polar beer you may find in the near future will be imported from Colombia. :(

  19. Pedro Esteban Says:

    I am very disappointed that you keep using Maduro/Raul Castro’s numbers when you say Maduro won in these states or those states or the election was close in favor of Maduro? Why do you repeat those figures and give them legitimacy? Do you believe Maduro won in those mesas they found where he got 100% of the vote?, to mention just one of 12,000 irregularities?
    Capriles won perhaps 54% of the votes without counting over 700,000 votes that were never allowed to happen.

    • moctavio Says:

      I dont believe that for a minute, Capriles won by a hair, too close to call without international votes. Period.

  20. Alex (the other) Says:

    11: 25 pm: I knew it!! (Read my post above) The guy kept Chavez’s cabinet! Giordani, Jaua, Izarra, Villegas. All the same! He doesn’t have the guts nor I guess knows anyone else to replace these fellas.

    It’s the same crap, different guy running the show…wonder how long will the country stand this BS government.

    • NorskeDiv Says:

      And so the country continues on course for disaster.

      RMS Venezuela has spotted an iceberg, run into and is rapidly taking on water. Another iceberg lies ahead, so captain Maduro has decided to stoke more coal into the burners and hit this one head on as well.

      When the ship is sinking, he will blame the ice-berg spotters for having spotted the ice bergs. Many Venezuelans will agree with him.

  21. gordo Says:

    I heard that the Pope will not recognize Madruo.

    • concerned Says:

      I thought chavez’s divine intervention played a part in the selection of the Pope. And that is how he is repaid.

  22. deananash Says:

    You wrote: “But to the poor of Venezuela, there has to be real change, not the small change of money in the pocket seen in the last fourteen years, while crime soared, blackouts increased, less housing was built, human rights violations boomed, corruption increased dramatically, fewer jobs were available and the dependency on oil increased even further.”

    And right you are. The real change is that the opposition has to focus on EDUCATING the majority in BASIC PRINCIPLES of (in no particular order): Ownership rights; Economics; Liberty (rights and responsibilities); and Education itself. Until sufficient headway is made on this task, who has political power won’t really matter all that much.

    Of course, if they’d started 5-7 years ago (as I suggested), they’d politically be in pretty good shape today.


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