Venezuela’s “Consulta Popular:” Comments So Far

The opposition coalition is going to get a good result today. So far turnout is impressive and people are enthusiastic. The one thing that could have supressed turnout is fear of violence. However, the TSJ did not declare the plebiscite illegal, and President Nicolás Maduro made a clear call for both events to be held in peace. This has clearly generated a sense among voters that it is safe to go and wait in line in publc space.

The only limit to the result would seem to be logistical, in other words, the number, placement, and functioning of the “puntos soberanos” (sovereign points). There are less than a third of the number of electoral tables as in a normal election. Insiders suggest that the maximum capacity of the structure the opposition has mobilized is 8 million or so.

That would be an extraordinary result since it would be more voters than those who voted for opposition candidates in the National Assembly elections in December 2015. It would also surpass the number of voters that would have been needed to recall Nicolás Maduro had the recall referendum not been indefinitely postponed.

Whatever the actual numbers say, the optics of a large turnout, especially in longtime Chavista areas in the Western part of Caracas will perhaps be more important.

People who think about these things, have been predicting a result of between 3-5 milllion, which would be positive. Given the dynamics of the past 24 hours, I would not be at all surprised by a result of over 5 million.

One week link of the entire effort is the inability to control multiple voting. Each voter has to show her or his ID and sign a sheet. This in theory could be cross checked to control multiple voting. But they won’t because these voter lists will be burned lest they become a new “Tascón List”–the list from 2003-04 of those who signed in favor of a recall referndum that has since been used to exclude people from government jobs and other benefits.

This will allow government figures to suggest that the turnout was due to multiple voting. I would not be surprised of government media would send a team out to film one of their members voting ten times during the day at different voting centers. They can add to this some videos of the opposition buring the voter lists as evidence of guilt.

One thing to watch will be if there is a significant difference between how many people vote “yes” on the three questions. The first one is, of course, the most important. The second two go further and further towards radical opposition strategy. The second asks people to affirm that they want the Armed Forces to support the National Assembly.

The final one asks people whether they agree with an unspecified “unity government” that would relegitimize the public powers. This last one especially amounts to the MUD to throwing a bone to opposition radicals. It will surely benefit them since many people will vote “yes” on all three without thinking too carefully about it. But it will be interesting to see if there are significant differences in support between these questions. Some dissident Chavistas have made calls to vote yes on the first question and no on the second two.