Friday, November 30, 2007

Random points on Sunday's referendum

Yesterday's march in favor of a NO vote on the constitutional reforms was reported by AP to be more than 100,000 strong, but interestingly the pro-government website reported "several hundred thousand" persons demonstrated. One person told me this was the biggest opposition rally since the ill-fated April 11, 2002 march during the coup period. The opposition clearly has a sense of momentum going into Sunday's vote, with a strong push against abstentionism emerging.

In the few conversations I've had so far of those who follow this closely, however, they are still cautious about how this will all turn out:
  • One cannot underestimate the capacity of the government to get out the vote for their position, as they've done in the past. Current estimates of 60% participation (those who will "definitely" vote) are still much lower than the December 2006 presidential elections, which had 74% participation with Chavez getting 7.4 million votes (about half of all eligible voters). The opposition has a lot of energy behind it, but no systematic get-out-the-vote campaign. The polls indicate that any additions of newly decided voters will tilt the current toss-up towards the NO, but just how many people will turn out remains to be seen.
  • The opposition is more prepared and organized to monitor and defend the results of the referendum than they have been in the past, but -- I'm not sure this extends to rural areas, which is where the government will be able to mobilize people overwhelmingly. One person mentioned voting tables that had gone 100% for Chavez in the past (indicating either a capacity for mobilization or an unfettered capacity for tinkering with the numbers in these areas.)
  • One person mentioned that there is often a secret vote for Chavez among middle and upper-middle class voters, who essentially vote their pocketbook (since they're doing quite well). I haven't heard of anyone who's really studied voting patterns, but this should be easily verifiable after the fact.
Stay tuned.

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