[News] Understanding the Venezuelan Presidential Election Outcome

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 16 10:53:06 EDT 2013

  Understanding the Venezuelan Presidential Election Outcome

Apr 15th 2013, by Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com


Things are chaotic here, as we recover from the surprise, 
disappointment, and a bit of hurt from the election results, but also go 
out in the street to express our support for those results, and to 
defend the national electoral system, one of the best and most secure 
voting systems in the world in a country which just loves to vote. We 
move quickly from sad last night to concerned and determined today, as 
the caceroles sound around the neighbourhoods and the opposition hangs 
outside the National Electoral Council (CNE) here in Merida, hundreds of 
them walking around with rocks and glass bottles in their hands, itching 
to have something to react to.

Still, as the pan clanging sounds around my neighbourhood and people 
shout "out! Out!" [referring to the government], making it just a little 
hard to think, it is important to understand yesterday's results, as 
that helps us to understand the situation we're in now, and plan 
somewhat for the future.

With the vote count updated this morning; 99.17% of votes counted, we 
see that 14,961,701 people voted this time, down just 214,552 from 
October's presidential elections. That makes it clear that around 
630-705,000 voters switched sides from voting for Chavez to voting for 
Capriles. The Chavista vote went down from 8,191,132 votes last October 
to 7,559,349 yesterday, and Capriles' vote went up from 6,591,304 votes 
last year to 7,296,876 yesterday. Maduro beat Capriles then by 1.77% of 
the vote- close, although other elections around the world have been 
much closer.

The question though that many are wondering, is why did those voters 
switch to Capriles, rather than abstain? And secondly, how did the 
difference between the two sides narrow so much in the last week, given 
polls leading up to the election were predicting a 10-18% lead for Maduro?

It's not common for voting trends to change so quickly, especially in 
the short amount of time that we had for this election. The election was 
called for 5 weeks after Chavez died, and there were only 10 days 
officially allowed for campaigning, though Capriles started his speaking 
tour of the country straight away. However,  this wasn't a common 
election. It was brought about by Chavez's passing. It started with us 
watching millions of people queuing to say goodbye to him, and frankly, 
we felt confident. We had won in October and in the December state 
elections, and we saw the outpouring of love for Chavez. The sense of 
who we had lost was so profound, it was hard to imagine people 
nonchalantly voting for his adversary in just over a month's time.  Yet 
over the last week, I felt the mood change. It seemed we started to get 
just a bit tired, after a month's of campaigning and mourning, and that 
Capriles' supporters became incredibly confident.

The campaign stakes became continuing the beautiful, dignified, and very 
problematic revolution after Chavez, verses a tempting "change" after 14 
years of Chavismo. Those who switched over, who chose "change", were 
tempted by the *end to all problems*  that Capriles promised. They 
believed you can just vote away all the problems that have continued or 
arisen over the last 14 years. They were short sighted and affected by 
the sabotage, by the fairly intense food shortages over the last month, 
the more frequent blackouts, and other problems that the private media 
conjured up.

The choice, this idea of voting for a revolution, for the dignity of the 
poor, and of the third world, was a lovely thing to get to vote on. Most 
of us understood it wasn't about Maduro, about individual candidates, 
but about revolution v capitalism and imperialism. Yet that sort of 
campaign is not easy in a world where capitalism is still hegemonic. 
That sort of campaign requires, I think, a higher ideological strength 
of most Venezuelans.

The narrow victory draws our attention to some of the failures and 
challenges of the revolution. Although Venezuelan political 
consciousness, discussion, knowledge of history, interest in the media 
and so on is so much higher than in other countries without a 
revolution, the government has still focused too much on slogans, on key 
words like "imperialism" and socialism, and not enough on broad 
participation in debate and deepening political understanding. That was 
reflected in Maduro's campaign, which focused on Chavez's memory, on 
continuing basic government social achievements such as the missions, 
but which de-emphasised just what Chavez stood for; his ideas, the 
battle for humanity, for economic justice, etc.

Further, the government hasn't in the past, and didn't during this 
campaign, explain the economic situation. It did not explain the 
devaluation well (nor consult the people on such a big economic 
decision, which might not have been a bad idea). We've gone 4 to 5 
months without toothpaste in the shops, and we don't know why. Further, 
the government either hasn't done anything about the situation (found 
the hoarders, come down on Colgate for it, redistribute the hoarded 
toothpaste) or hasn't told us what it has done.

When people lack a high political consciousness, it's easy for them to 
become a little tired of no oil, or toothpaste, or margarine. Or the 
price of beer doubling in a month. Or the occasional black out. The 
government's communication with the people needs to improve drastically. 
Further, in 14 years a lot has been addressed- we all know the list of 
inspiring achievements, but some problems such as bureaucracy, crime, 
and corruption persist, and it seems some people hope someone else will 
solve them.

Further, there is the idea of Chavismo without Chavez. According to a 
GISXXI poll conducted a few weeks before the elections, 20% of Chavez 
supporters believed there is no Chavismo without Chavez. While that is 
positive, in that 80% understand that its up to us to take 
responsibility and continue the revolution, that's 20% of the Chavista 
support base who saw Chavismo as being about a specific leader, only, 
and would therefore be vulnerable to swinging their vote. In Merida, the 
rally for Maduro was about the same size (perhaps 10 blocks or so long) 
as when Chavez spoke here before the October elections. It gave me hope 
that most people understood that "we're all Chavez" means that we keep 
fighting. I think it's the Chavez voters who don't attend such rallies, 
and some of the bureaucrats, who would likely have switched sides. That 
means we can be clearer now about our real support base.

Maduro's campaign itself had its challenges and weaknesses. Unlike 
Capriles, who had already run in February (in primaries), and in 
October, then in December to win as governor of Miranda, Maduro had 
never campaigned before. He had little time to learn how to do it, and 
to consolidate himself as a possible leader in people's eyes.

It has been a general strategy of the Chavez government to tone down its 
radical and ideological discourse in the lead-up to elections, and 
Maduro did the same thing. However in light of Capriles basically 
promising an improved version of the social aspects of the revolution, 
this time that might have meant that some people found it hard to see 
the difference. Of course the difference is huge, but I think Maduro 
failed to define what revolution without Chavez is. Rather than spending 
40 minutes at the Merida rally talking about the bird that talked to him 
and spirituality, he should have talked about the meat of this 
revolution, its humanity, its solidarity -- things the opposition 
doesn't understand and doesn't fight for.

On the other hand, this time round, from the side of the grassroots, 
this campaign was much more creative. Around Merida, clever, beautiful, 
and moving murals popped up everywhere. The PSUV youth painted huge 
banners and stopped the traffic in different points around the city. 
People worked really really hard.

The opposition however, had the advantage that it had been campaigning 
well before Chavez died. Capriles, the Venezuelan (and international) 
private media, opposition groups like Javu, began trying to delegitimise 
the government, trying to create distrust of it- accusing it of lying 
about Chavez's health and so on, since he became sick again at the end 
of last year. We can see the accumulated affects of that campaign now, 
as opposition supporters actually believe that fraud was committed in 
yesterday's elections, despite them achieving their largest vote ever.

Once the elections were called and Capriles registered as a candidate, 
he went on the offensive. After initially screwing up and insenstiveily 
doubting the timing of Chavez's death, he then ignored Chavez altogether 
(a good tactical decision for him) and attacked Maduro and the 
government again and again.

While he insulted and lied about every aspect and person in the 
government he could, at the same time his advisers seem to have given 
him acting classes, as he began to impersonate Chavez in every which 
way. In his speeches, he talked liked Chavez, he told anecdotes like 
Chavez, he tried to sound sincere, as Chavez had been, and he promised 
to do the same things the revolution was already doing, such as build 
200,000 houses a year, and increase the minimum wage.

Capriles attacked the Supreme Court, then when elections began, the CNE 
too, as though they are one and the same thing as the government. He was 
aggressive about it, and promoted the idea that "we shouldn't accept 
this anymore". At the same time, he blamed the food shortages on the 
government, and I guess those who voted for him didn't wander why most 
of the food shortages began during the election campaign.

All of this was massively backed up by private media (online, 
television, newspapers) here and overseas, which not only added to 
Capriles' legitimacy, but gave his supporters confidence.

"They're [the CNE and the government] burning the electoral boxes, the 
ones with our votes it in," one opposition student told me today as they 
protested outside the CNE.

"The government will fall, the government has fallen, we're not scared," 
they chanted, as they walked around with their rocks and glass bottles 
in their hands, eager to have someone react so they could throw them 
somewhere. But the police were few today, and peaceful, and the 
Chavistas near the protest reacted a few times but largely were 
disciplined and held back.

It's ironic that the extremely high turnout at the voting centres 
yesterday illustrates Venezuelans' deep political interest and also 
their trust in their electoral system, yet half of those Venezuelans 
believe Capriles when he suggests that the CNE is biased or rigs the votes.

Capriles waged a dirty campaign, but for his aims, it was well done.  I 
remember one night a few days ago overhearing someone talking to their 
girlfriend. "Don't worry, from Sunday things will be different," he 
assured her.  That time, it felt like the opposition's delusional belief 
election after election that finally they'll win, had changed. It had 
become a committed confidence, it had become a cause.


Although we technically won last night, even Maduro has recognised that 
we also lost. Among other things, we wanted to send a message to the 
world that this revolution goes on, yet the results show some doubt. 
However, it is more complicated than that. We should recognise the 
problems and challenges, but also feel some comfort that this time, 7 
million people largely voted for the revolution of the poor to continue. 
And they did that, despite most media being against us, despite the 
distortions and lies, despite the minor, but real, economic hardships, 
despite 14 years of marching and voting again and again, despite the 
bureaucracy in the government. As one comrade of mine said, "Chavez got 
us used to victories that were marvellously planned and masterfully lead 
by him. This time it was up to us to do it alone, and we won". We can 
only learn from here.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20130416/24f90cdc/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list