[UPDATE 2 and final]
Thus we are voting tomorrow and since I will leave for Caracas as soon as I am done voting, there will be no "election day" blogging as I usually do, though there will be live twittering (more on that later). This means that anything I have to say before voting starts needs to be said by tonight. As such this post will be up all day and will be updated as needed.
Clear separate issue paragraphs so you can rad only what interests you.
The stakes tomorrow
Of course, what all have eyes on is the big prize, the presidential nomination. Unfortunately there are also local races that could influence at the very least the margin of victory. But since the Unidad Election board at times sounds like your average CNE, they will not announce any partial results until the trend is "irreversible". For example the strong push of Mendoza in Miranda cannot be looked as a bellwether for how well Capriles is going to do overall: we will know about it after the fact, robbing us from any significant suspense on election night. And giving me a lot more of work after election results to explain given messes.
But let's not forget that some of the local races will have a significant impact not only on the result tomorrow but on the opposition ability to have an effective challenge next October. For example, imagine that Mendoza were to upset Ocariz in Miranda state (which I do not think will happen). While at the same time Miranda current governor gains the nomination. Without a full committed support from embittered PJ militants in Miranda and a diffident UNT machinery in Zulia, that is yet more hard work for Capriles. In other words the best bet for next October is that no matter who of Perez and Capriles win, they also do good in their home state to help mend the psyche of the losing side.
The paradox for someone like me is that if I actually do not think the margin of victory of Capriles may affect his bid in October, the margin of his followers in a certain number of races (Miranda, Anzoategui) could affect him greatly, making me almost wish he will landslide at least in a couple of key states so that he can get good bases for October.
I did not have time to describe all important local races so there goes an executive summary.
Crucial ones for Capriles. Primero Justicia needs to sweep Miranda. That is, they need not only to have Ocariz win the governor nomination but they need to win 80% at least of mayor nominations. They are set to do it but the strong push of Mendoza, who after all was a good ex governor, linked to popular classes better than what Capriles ever managed (and he managed well), could deprive PJ of the resounding victory it needs. Not to mention that a certain meanness and sectarianism in PJ campaigning in the state is putting off a lot of people. For example my family was all going to vote for Uzcategui in Baruta. Now all but my Mom are voting for Blyde... but all still for Ocariz, though most for Maria Corina. Cross over voting has become really quite a sport in Venezuela.
The other one that PJ needs is the victory of PODEMOS in Anzoategui. That one is more difficult as the Perez candidate is one of the last strong AD left. Which makes this race equally as crucial for Perez if he wants to mount a strong electoral machinery against Chavez in the Eastern part of Venezuela.
"Oriente" will impose the final result. Long ago I have said that the election will be won in the Eastern part of Venezuela. Today it will define the margin of victory.
Perez is expected to carry Zulia and the Andes. He may lose Falcon and Lara but he should not do too bad there. Capriles was expected to win the central states, with increased margins now that Leopoldo ensures he gets Carabobo. The Llanos really do not count much and should go rather to Perez. Thus where the decisive votes are is in Oriente where none of them had anything sure starting the race. For example Lopez was an early hard campaigner there and I suspect that it will benefit greatly Capriles now, in particular in Sucre state where as far as I know PJ was nonexistent. Now, Capriles has a good chance to take Sucre, Anzoategui, Nueva Esparta and Bolivar which is what gives him his larger lead in polls. Even a possible strong victory in Monagas where AD still has embers will not be enough for Perez.
Crucial ones for Perez. The above could explain why Perez in the end campaigned so strongly in Caracas, the only place where he could still take votes away from Capriles, giving up on Oriente. Having the endorsement of Richar Blanco in Caracas-Libertador could in the last minute rob Capriles of a victory there. Betting that Anzoategui will go his way and giving up on the rest of Oriente for Caracas while minimizing the margin of Capriles in Miranda through Mendoza is a good strategy if you ask me, but it would have required at least another week of campaign.
One reason for these late minute problems for Perez is that he had to campaign as late as last week in Zulia which he should have left all tied up at least two weeks ago. Zulia was never a risk for him but it became crucial for the victory margin, essential as Capriles refused to go down in polls.
A last word. There are no other really races worth discussing because they can be either interesting but irrelevant as the chavista will win in December, or because they are uninteresting like the one in Yaracuy where all, ALL, ALL candidates suck. At this late in the game yours truly has not decided who he would vote for. If it were not that he is going to vote for presidential candidates anyway he could well have stayed home.
There is one honorable exception in Merida where AD and Copei are renewing their eternal battle for that state and where PJ and UNT are sort of sidekicks. The outcome of that state will have meaning as to the future of AD and Copei.
The participation tomorrow.
It is fair to say that chavismo may be blowing it. After having mulled for who knows how long whether to sabotage it, participate, boycott them, it seems that the official word from Miraflores Palace is that not only chavistas should not participate in the primaries (no one was expecting them to do so, only the mythic NiNi) but those who do risk all sorts of penalties. Meaning of course for public perception that any military or public servant or Mision member is a dye hard chavista.
This is a big mistake for several reasons. First, such an unreasonable stance, and an undemocratic one when your side is not promising a primary anywhere in damaging contrast, has the direct effect to make friends and families of those chavistas or state employees threatened to go and vote for them.
But there has been yet another idiotic mistake from the regime. See, when the PSUV had its internal elections where Chavez had the last word on the actual winner, supposedly it paid for the CNE voting equipment rental. So they demanded that the opposition do pay for that rental. The opposition unable to dip in the public treasury as PSUV does decided to limit the number of polling stations and regroup them in chosen centers (more than half of the people will have to vote in a different center than their usual one). The regime should have suggested the CNE to do it for free because tomorrow open polling stations are more likely to have long lines, a terrible propaganda damage for the regime! In fact people should loiter around polling stations for as long as they can in the hope to encourage a better turnout.
To this I need to add a personal anecdote: my chavistas at work are kind of upset. Truly, this last week when the subject was broached I either encountered shitfaced chavistas or even exasperate ones who normally are much less sanguine. Even one of my workers who pretends to be fairly neutral revealed herself as a true chavista! Indeed, they are afraid that the regime obstinate stand on primaries is actually crating a reverse Tascon list since now I will know who is chavista. As if I did not know already, dear Lord! But that is not what matters since I would never fire someone one for being a chavista if they do their job right (though suspicion of being chavista is enough today for not hiring people in the private sector: heck, they can go to work for the regime! I can't!). What really, truly bugs them, is that the opposition is holding primaries and they are not. If Chavez does not care about that, his followers at ground zero are more sensitive as to the loss of moral high-ground (their moral high-ground anyway).
So, how to estimate participation amid such threats and reactions? This morning I was putting some air in my tires in prevision of my road trip to Caracas tomorrow. Well, the attendant, someone as "pueblo" as they get was telling me to go and vote for Capriles, that everybody was doing that. True, he may have been hustling me for a better trip. But when I told him I was going for Machado he was surprised and yet told me that it was OK, that we shall all vote no matter what. Needless to tell you that I was taken a little askance (and yes, I tipped him well).
I have the feeling that participation is going to be good, maybe better than expected and I truly think that we can cross the 2 million votes. The fair campaign combined by the exaggerated dirty tricks of chavismo should create a general positive reaction.
Other endorsement and sanctions
I have told you already that my endorsement goes for Maria Corina Machado, and that in Yaracuy state the choices are so bad that I cannot endorse anyone. But now I spend a third of the year in Caracas, at least, and I even pay taxes for a small studio apartment I have there. Not to mention the S.O. is in town. So there I go with my Caracas area endorsement. Except for two that I will discuss at the end, they are my favorite but their competition if it wins will not upset me.
Miranda: Carlos Ocariz, PJ
Caracas Libertador: Ecarri VP/Ind.
Caracas Baruta: Gerardo Blyde UNT/VP
Caracas Chacao: Emilio Grateron VP
Caracas Sucre: J.C. Caldera PJ
Caracas El Hatillo: close your eyes and hit anything, it is really a mess like Yaracuy
But I have two counter endorsements, two people that I think you should not vote for, who do not deserve to be elected for the lousy campaign they did at the end.
Ramon Muchacho for Chacao and David Uzcategui for Baruta have been doing a dirty campaign while pretending to be the victims of one. This has been very clear in the last two weeks, in addition for them to hug the coattails of Capriles so closely that it is embarrassing. I mean, when people grab someone's ass so tight it can only mean that they have no merits of their own.
This is particularly pathetic in the case of Uzcategui who I had in good regard as recently as a month ago. See, the guy who was managing the municipal council of Baruta and has thus been at least in part responsible for any and all successes or failures in the past three years, pretends that no, that he was only on the good ones, always defending Baruteños from Blyde. Not only that, but Blyde's campaign has been a model in that he has not hugged the coat tails of anyone, running on his record. Uzcategui campaign in my eyes make him a totally unworthy candidate, unfit for the job and very likely a lousy mayor who soon enough would have put up billboards to his glory, something that Blyde never did, by the way..
In short, Muchacho and Uzcategui remind me the dirty tactics of Copei campaigns of years past and the nasty drift I am already detecting in Primero Justicia.... Note: before you say I am blinded I will make you go back up a few lines so you can see that I am endorsing, heartily, two PJ for the two main positions of Miranda..... but I want nothing with the two just mentioned even though I have been willing to listen to valid criticism of Grateron and Blyde. These critics pale in comparison to the good that they managed to do and the near character assassination of the other two which reveal their lack of integrity.
The primaries viewed from elsewhere
It is gratifying to see that the opposition primaries have drawn quite a good coverage as people are getting tired of Chavez, not only inside Venezuela. However there are always a few missteps.
This week, in Zeta, Elizabeth Burgos bemoaned that there are still some journalists in El Pais of Spain that do not take the opposition seriously and that take the regime's propaganda seriously. Otherwise El Pais still has the best coverage in Spanish outside of Venezuela.
On the other hand, a magazine that should know much better, is taking at face value a propaganda poll that gives 62% to Capriles. Yes, you, The Economist, read English language blogs before you buy the Datanalisis processed data.... Otherwise the article is good.
CÑÑ is offering a wide coverage and even the Carter Center is trying to make a comeback. A curious and interesting development if you ask me, a a sure sign that times are changing.
I am not changing the basic predictions of earlier.
At least 2 millions will vote. I am willing to bet 2.5.
Capriles wins but with no more than 50%. Closer to 40 if participation is below 2 million
Perez can only win if participation is below 2 million and if the machinery exists outside of Zulia. If he wins it will be by not much more than 40%. If participation goes above 2 million he could well end in the mid 30ies... though his latest push should give him 35%.
Maria Corina Machado will get at most 10 points if more than 2 million vote. But she is the candidate with the most surprise potential so I will not rule out a 15 point in the end, mostly gained at the expense of Capriles. She could do better than expected in some state capitals but I doubt that she gets much in cities below 150 K. This country is just too machista.
Arria and Medina share at most 10 points and could be sucked dry by Machado in a weird "voto util"..
Perez should carry without major trouble Zulia, Tachira, Merida and Trujillo. He has a good option in Monagas and the Llanos states which do not count much. He has a fighting shot in Falcon, Nueva Esparta and maybe, just maybe, Caracas Libertador.
Capriles is safe only in Miranda and Lara. However he is the one that has the most big states leaning favorably his way: Carabobo, Aragua, Bolivar, Anzoategui, Sucre. Also in general he should carry a state by 10 points or more whereas Perez carries them by 10 or less.
This being said, I really speak from gut feeling and I am not staking my repudiation as a seer on these elections which are until the end highly unpredictable. This is truly a wild guess, not an educated one. So even if I have a lot of egg to wipe from my face Monday, it was a meaningless guess, just for the fun of it.
Miranda for Ocariz. Anzoategui for Barreto. Sucre for the PJ/VP/PODEMOS coalition. Bolivar for Velazquez. Merida for Lester. Aragua for Mardo.
Yaracuy? I have no idea, for any ticket. The campaign has been dead except for a couple of events from Capriles which may mean that he will carry the state. Except that the participation will be as low as in the Llanos state. That is what happens when all is in the hand of chavismo: there is enough scare to frighten people into staying home and no local authorities to do the work to convince people to go and vote. That is the price of division in 2008, of which I blame PJ, by the way.