For some reason this northerner of the Andean states has become a bastion of chavismo. In 2008 Hugo Cabezas was dropped out of nowhere by Chavez and still managed to win with 170,000 votes, the double than its next rival from the coalition opposition. And if opposition was in the hope of better days, it should keep in mind that the candidate of the Communist Party and PPT coalition (Trujillo was the rare division within chavismo) got 38,000, half of what the opposition won.
Cabezas has been a bad governor. In Valera people have been protesting. Abuses are committed all the time there. And yet I cannot see how the ensemble of opposition candidates could get together 100,000 votes, which would be already an increase of 40,000 votes from what they got as state legislative vote in 2008. This would leave chavismo with still a potential comfy 130,000 votes.
And to make things worse this is one of the few areas where not only the PPT could be a spoiler, but could do so at the expense of the opposition. Indeed disaffected chavista could be tempted to go PPT because the ex governor of Trujillo, Gilmer Viloria, booted out of the PSUV is now on the top of the ticket in Trujillo. There is no lack of people to claim that Viloria tenure starts to look good compared to the tenure of the current Cabezas. Thus many an opposition voter, missing star appeal in its ranks, could be tempted to go Viloria too.
I do not know enough about Trujillo, but I have read, in English, The Hacienda and I certainly think that this book explains a lot why chavismo has taken such a hold there. I do not know how much better Viloria might actually be from Cabezas or whether this is all just a cocks fight, but I have the suspicion that out of the 5 seats the opposition has only one leading its way from the list vote. And in fact I should give it leading to the PPT. At any rate, the only race worth watching there, the only district with a remote opposition victory, is district 2 with Valera the main city of the state and its commercial center. Although chavismo still won there recently, a small defeat this time around will confirm a general chavismo retreat.
Total Trujillo: 4 PSUV, 1 PPT
Here the situation is a little bit more complex, less favorable to chavismo, but the opposition proves once again that the Human animal is the only one that stumbles on the same stone twice, thrice in Merida as they are running Williams Davila who lost already three times for governor. I do not know anyone in Merida that likes him among the opposition I know. And if they vote for him it is because, well, he is the "unity" candidate. So having him on top of the ticket again is a good way to lose some of the potential the opposition had there.
Williams Davila lost his reelection bid in 2000. In 2004 he tried again and lost again without even reaching 22% of the vote. In 2008, in spite of a mediocre rule of 8 years by Florencio Porras (though better than the average chavista military governor) Davila still only got 44.7% of the vote of the unity ticket.
I mean, when are folks going to realize that Davila is done, over, Pudrevalized?
And yet it is too bad because the new governor, Marcos Diaz Orellana who had awakened, erroneously I already said then, hopes of not being a radical chavista seems to have cast his lot with the hard core. As expected we are told that Florencio Porras tenure of 8 years does not look that bad in contrast.
Thus my predictions for Merida are not very optimist. Yes, William Davila should make it through, and district 3, under the influence of the new Mayor of Merida city Lester Rodriguez who made it with 54% and seems to be growing, should also be a shoo in for the opposition. But the other three districts are a different story.
The first observation here is that I cannot just use my -5% rule for chavismo because Merida has a very erratic voting record. That is, Merida was able to reelect Chavez brilliantly and yet voted NO to both of his constitutional referenda! The table below will illustrate the point better.
As a matter of fact the rather strong variations of voting numbers over a mere 5 years is one of the best arguments as to the CNE playing fast and loose with the electoral registry. Either that or the mountainous and agrarian nature of Merida really determine the voting pattern as to the weather and harvest time.... But I digress.
Clearly in 2004 a divided opposition was easily trounced and that division could explain why Porras was reelected comfortably but not with a high number of votes: why go to vote when we know who is going to win? In 2006 I remember writing somewhere that I was surprised at the large Chavez victory there as I thought that Merida could go to its neighbor Rosales. Well, he lost at home too, end of discussion. And yet 2007, barely ONE year after, Chavez loses 70,000 votes, nearly 35% of the votes he got even though the opposition lost about 10% but won anyway. In 2008, as I pointed out above, Davila being a lousy candidate explains why the opposition was not even able to recover the 2007 vote while chavismo almost got the 2006 vote! And now comes the big surprise, right after the opposition defeat of 2008, the reelection amendment is defeated with he best score the opposition got in Merida since Chavez reached power. Only 3 months after chavismo won the governor's mansion!
It is not the scope of this post to analyze in detail the fascinating electoral data of Merida who with more municipalities than most states, where a wide variety of broken land from the flat tropical humid suffocating land close to Lake Maracaibo to the alpine tundra could explain such a fickleness. However there is something clear, Merida results over all depend a lot on how its state capital located in the Libertador municipality votes. For example in 2009, lead by its popular mayor, Libertador voted 78,000 No against 46,000 Yes, carrying by itself the state (The numbers are for district 3 which is Libertador and small Santos Marquina who also voted NO).
Thus in the case of Merida I need to also consider the 2009 results as the -5% rule alone will not help much in predicting the final outcome. I think that district 3 will go, no doubt, for the opposition UNT candidate. District 2, the most rural North, close to Trujillo with similar background will go without a doubt PSUV. District 1 which includes very chavista El Vigia, the second largest city of the state, will very likely go PSUV. Only the very rural mountainous South, closer to Tachira than Trujillo, where the recent wave of expropriations might make a difference, which also probably suffers from a drop in tourism, and whose opposition candidate comes form PODEMOS, could also go opposition. At least in district 4 if I apply my -5% rule on the 2009 vote I find out that it goes, barely, opposition. After all district 4 dropped 5,000 chavista votes between 2008 and 2009, in barely 3 months! while districts 1 and 2 did a better job of retaining their 2009 number. Something went wrong in district 4 and I am taking a risk and call it already for the opposition even if at this point it should be a too close to call.
The vote list should go 1 and 1, no problem there, no matter how awful Davila is. At least if Davila is elected representative they might finally get him away from future gubernatorial ambitions.
Total Merida: 3 PSUV; 1 Podemos, 1 AD, 1 UNT
Now we come to another state that chavismo desperately wants to take back but that resists and resists. Chavismo wants Tachira because it is the Colombian border and thus becomes a natural haven for their FARC buddies. But with the FARC come all sorts of economic problems and crime and the people get quite upset, you know. Never mind that Venezuelan dirt cheap gasoline is smuggled across the border by gangs apparently controlled by no one else but the local Nazional Guard leaving the local gas stations without fuel for the locals!. The loss of Tachira in 2008 was extremely painful for chavismo and this one has been trying to sabotage the rule of Cesar Perez Vivas in any possible way, the more humiliating the better. Which of course has a negative effect on chavismo as Tachira is after all, a proud land of Venezuelan presidents, from Cipriano Castro to Carlos Andres Perez (the presidents need not be good, they just need to be presidents from Tachira).
Analyzing Tachira is not easy because it is the state with the most municipalities, about two dozens, and thus all sorts of micro leaderships that may or may not affect outcomes (some municipalities do not even reach 2,000 electors). The more so that San Cristobal, its capital carries a quarter of the electorate and is decisively against Chavez now while the rest of the state is of a more varied rejection to support. Thus it was very tempting for the CNE to do some gerrymandering "light". Still, the heavy hand f the CNE is obvious: with the 2008 vote the new 5 districts would be carried 4 by the the PSUV with a margin average of about 10% while the opposition would carry San Cristobal with, you guessed it, more than 50% margin. Just as it was done for Maracaibo. Why did the CNE not merge San Cristobal with its suburbs like they did in district 1 of Caracas to make it a two seat district? I wonder..........
But this gerrymandering will probably not work there for many reasons. First, the insecurity and FARC problem is becoming more and more annoying for a population that feels taken hostage. The constant bickering with Colombia is now really taking a big economic toll and the government is not doing anything to help, letting it now that as long as the new governor is not "removed" Tachira will not improve its lot. And also, the deliberate victimization of Cesar Perez Vivas has, I understand, upset many chavistas who find it totally unfair and unnecessary as they must suffer the consequences too.
Chavismo is feeling the tide turning decisively in Tachira. For one, Iris Valera, an infamously violent and vulgar representative, avowed FARC supporter, has decided to drop her single seat constituency and is now running at the top of the ticket on the vote list, a much safer seat, so Chavez will be sure she is elected as he wants to radicalize the next National Assembly. Because if Perez Vivas election was not as easy as planned (he certainly ws not the best nor most popular candidate and got to run just because the very popular mayor of San Cristobal was barred from running for technicalities, the infamous "inhabilitaciones"), it still came on the 2007 referendum for the opposition where Tachira with 57.3% was the biggest NO margin. And in 2009 the opposoiton managed to improve the 2007 score. In other words the opposition totals have been growing in Tachira
2007 227,000 votes
2008 240,000 votes
2009 293,000 votes
If I apply just a 5% drop in chavista vote Tachria this time around on the 2008 results the state will all go opposition except district 3. But if I apply the 5% on district 3 2009 results, the opposition gets it too! Thus there is an excellent possibility that Tachria will go all the way to the opposition, the more so that things have been getting uglier since 2009. Thus I will put all districts for the opposition and put district 3 as too close to call.
There is really no need to go into further details of this state. We just need to underline that Tachira held three primaries in total and that the winner of the San Critobal one is Miguel Angel Rodriguez, star journalist of now defunct RCTV. The vote list will be split anyway and awful Iris Valera will manage to retain her job, even not from her original district. Though with Rodriguez on top of the opposition ticket and the baggage carried by Varela and chavismo there we can consider the distinct possibility of a major upset to happen and the opposition sweeping ALL districts.
Total Tachira: 1 PSUV, 1 too close to call, 1 AD, 1 Independent, 3 Copei
With the Andes and Zulia commented we reach almost half of the seats of the new National Assembly and thus we can indulge in putting our second half moon graph. As you will see Copei and UNT have benefited from pour visit through these states, and PSUV has lost control of the assembly. But we are moving next to the Llanos where chavismo will do better and reset a little bit the electoral clocks. Also we get into more AD and PODEMOS lands as we move to the Central states and Oriente. But this will be a cheap feel good graph, even considering that I have been conservative in my analysis.
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