El Comandante Chávez: You have a crisis

[LATE GROWTH FLUSH: Considerably more discussion of this result in the propagation bench below]

ABC News is reporting that 89% of votes cast in Venezuela’s National Assembly election today were cast for allies of President Hugo Chávez. Turnout, with the major opposition parties boycotting, was 25%.

That is a staggeringly low turnout.

Such a low turnout suggests two things to me: (1) The opposition “won” in that it asked people to stay away and they did; (2) In a reasonably full turnout, if even just half the voters had voted for the opposition, they could have denied Chávez the two-thirds majority he was seeking.

I previously commented on the rationale for a boycott. In that post, I said:

… the point of a bocott is to provoke a crisis for the government.

When I said that, I was assuming that even with the boycott, turnout would be a good deal higher than 25%.

Memo to El Comandante: You have a crisis.

5 thoughts on “El Comandante Chávez: You have a crisis

  1. Pingback: PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Answer: 25%

  2. In Venezuela’s 2000 legislative election, turnout was 68.1%. That was the first legislative election under Chávez (not counting the constituent assembly). It was also only the second legislative election since the establishment of the democratic regime in 1958 not to have been concurrent with a presidential election.

    As I noted back in the thread about the Afghan election in September, there is a strong tendency across presidential systems for nonconcurrent legislative elections to have lower turnout than concurrent elections. (Absent the boycott, Venezuela would be expected to have lower turnout differential across election types than Afghanistan, because Venezuela uses MMP, whereas Afghanistan uses SNTV; MMP enhances the role of parties to knit districts together, the very opposite of what SNTV does.)

    Chris L., by asking this question, anticipated something I asked myself an hour or so after I had walked away from the computer for the evening. One can’t assume the turnout would have been 70-80% without the boycott. Still, 25% is staggeringly low even with the consideration of this additional information.

    (The established parties had pulled the 1998 elections out of the normal concurrence with the presidential election when they realized that Chavez was going to win the presidency. It worked, for a while, in that Chavez’s party did very poorly in the legislative election that preceded by some months his own election. Why Chávez himself retained nonconcurrent elections is a bit of a mystery to me. I guess just because he wanted to lengthen his own term to 6 years and was reluctant to make the congressional term that long.)

  3. What could the Venezuelan opposition vote have been without the boycott?

    A very quick back-of-the-envelope calculation confirms what I suggested in the original post, above. If even 50% of the voters who stayed away had turned out to vote for the opposition, and given a 68% turnout, Chávez’s parties would have been around 65% of the vote. That might have been enough, despite MMP, to have given Chávez his two-thirds majority due to the fragmentation of that opposition.

    But this means that, had the opposition been able to command much more than 50% of those who stayed home (as I assume they could have), Chávez would have been denied his two-thirds majority.

    The opposition was not willing to take the risk of participating in an election in which Chávez might have obtained his two thirds (allowing him to change the constitution to extent his own mandate beyond 2012, as well as other changes). Whether that was good strategy or not will be debated for quite some time, I suspect.

  4. What could the Venezuelan opposition vote have been without the boycott?

    A very quick back-of-the-envelope calculation confirms what I suggested in the original post, above. If even 50% of the voters who stayed away had turned out to vote for the opposition, and given a 68% turnout, Chávez’s parties would have been around 65% of the vote. That might have been enough, despite MMP, to have given Chávez his two-thirds majority due to the fragmentation of that opposition.

    But this means that, had the opposition been able to command much more than 50% of those who stayed home (as I assume they could have), Chávez would have been denied his two-thirds majority.

    The opposition was not willing to take the risk of participating in an election in which Chávez might have obtained his two thirds (allowing him to change the constitution to extent his own mandate beyond 2012, as well as other changes). Whether that was good strategy or not will be debated for quite some time, I suspect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.