Opinion Polls Don’t Guarantee an Opposition Win in Venezuela

Chavistas have not shown that they are willing to play fair in elections.
Chavistas have not shown that they are willing to play fair in elections. (AztecaNoticias)

By José Velásquez

Major pollsters and mainstream analysts are forecasting a victory for the Venezuelan opposition in the upcoming legislative elections, which will be held on Sunday, December 6. The question, they argue, is not who will win, but what type of majority will the opposition have. Will it be a simple majority, or will opposition parties control three-fifths or two-thirds of Congress?

As much as I’d like to rely on the numbers, I could spend hours explaining qualitative data that challenges Venezuelan polls. So, I’d invite you to think about three basic points:

(1) Why have the United Nations, the Organization of American States, think thanks, prominent international leaders, and non-governmental organizations raised concerns about the Venezuelan government? They emphasize its control over other branches of power, irrespective of polls, and official statistics. Would these smart people raise their voice without a justification?

(2) Even if we don’t buy the authority argument, consider the following reason: President Nicolás Maduro has clearly stated they will win and remain in power, whatever it takes.

(3) Do you believe this is a bluff? Then, bear in mind that even pollsters recognize Chavistas breach the Constitution in their favor. According to some pollsters, electoral irregularities represent around 3 percent of the total results.

Given the 1.4 percent difference of the 2013 presidential elections, if their calculations are right, Maduro’s victory was likely manufactured. In other words, Chavismo has the capacity to change the electoral outcome.

My bottom line: why should I bet on free, fair, and transparent elections in Venezuela this time? In this particular case, quantitative data does not match qualitative data, in my view. If I had to make a choice, based on available sources, then, I would put more weight on the government’s undemocratic behavior and facts, rather than abstract measures.

Remember, this loss may cause a snowball effect that not only threatens Nicolás Maduro’s political stability in 2016, but also Chavismo’s immediate future in power.

Nevertheless, I hope Chavismo will prove me wrong, because it would be positive for the country: the ruling elite would present its democratic side, and show it is willing to commit to a peaceful and electoral exit from the crisis.

At this point, it is obvious I am not going to analyze the ideal scenario. If the opposition wins, I will, of course, go deep into the implications, including the snowball effect mentioned above.

As the US Secretary of State John Kerry put it: the elections will be a “measure of the type of democracy that exists in the country,” if any.

José Velásquez is a Venezuelan geopolitical analyst at Venezuela Forecast. He also gives conferences on business, political, legal, economic, and security issues linked to Venezuela. Follow @VForecast.

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