Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What exactly is unclear about this? 

Sometimes people can writing about Venezuela can be a little thick. For someone reason they pretend they can figure out how popular Chavez is or that maybe he isn't that popular at all. Some are so clueless they somehow believe that only fourteen percent of Venezuelan's support the "government", whatever it is they mean by that.

Hopefully the following slide will help clearify things for those who are still confused:

These charts were created by the opposition polling firm Keller & Associates. The graph on the left hand side shows how many people have a favorable opinion of Chavez (in red) and the graph on the right shows how many people would vote for him if the elections were today (again in red). So 63% of Venezuelans hold a favorable opinion of Chavez as opposed to 24% who have an unfavorable opinion of him and in an election today 57% would vote for him as opposed to only 35% who would vote against him.

Clearly even this very anti-Chavez polling firm recognizes that Chavez is highly popular and would handily win any free elections. Any questions?

Now, while I'm on the subject of elections let me discuss one other matter. A big slogan among Chavez supporters these days is "Ten million votes for Chavez". In other words, the stated goal of the Chavez campaign is to get 10 million votes in the December 3rd election. If the polling numbers above are accurate and Chavez gets, say, 60% of the vote the 10 million goal won't be realized. At 60% and with about 14 millin registered voters even if all registered voters cast ballots Chavez still wouldn't get 10 milllion votes. The goal is almost certainly unrealistic.

Some opposition pundits like to pounce on how unlikely that goal is to be realized and act as if it shows that Chavez is crazy and unrealistic. Of course, it is the opposition pundits who are clueless.

Almost certainly Chavez knows very well that the 10 million goal is unlikely to be met. So why set it as a goal in the first place? Simple. In Venezuela it matters not only that you win the election (which Chavez is all but certain to do) but how much you win by. It doesn't matter when it comes to governing - Chavez will be president if he wins by 5 million votes or just 1 vote. But Venezuela has a key feature in its constitution, the recall referendum. Half way through Chavez's term the opposition could organize a recall referendum where if they get more votes than Chavez got in his initial election they can vote him out (assuming that there isn't an even greater number of people who vote to keep him). This gives any president a very big incentive to try to get as many votes as they can in their initial election. The more votes they get the harder it would be for opponents to vote them out in a recall referendum.

So while Chavez may not get 10 million votes he does want to get 7 or 8 million votes as opposed to 5 or 6 million. With 7 or 8 million it would be very hard for the opposition to revoke his mandate even if his popularity were to fall. How best to get those 7 or 8 million votes? Set high goals and even when you don't meet them you will still have enough votes to make your mandate unrevocable. After all Chavez wants another six years, not just another three years.

Even if our opposition friends are too clueless to figure it out the concept behind the "10 million votes for Chavez" slogan is pretty easy to understand. Its as easy as understanding the slogan "6 more years".


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