Venezuelans will go to the polls this Sunday to elect 337 mayors and 2389 representatives to municipal councils. The last municipal elections were held in November 2008, an election that also included state-level offices. In 2008, pro-government candidates won 265 of 326 municipalities, and they received roughly a million votes more than the opposition. However, that was with Chávez as president and this time the opposition hopes to gain ground. In the presidential elections held in April, Nicolas Maduro (50.61%) was elected by a small margin (223,599 votes) over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles (49.12%).
Based on the numbers from the presidential elections, political scientist Francisco Pérez Gómez argues that if the government increases its votes by 5%, it will win roughly 254 or 76% of the municipalities. If the opposition were to increase its votes by 5%, it could win 116 or 35% of the municipalities. In the unlikely event of a 10% increase in pro-government vote, it would win 266 or 79% of the municipalities, and, in the equally unlikely event of the opposition gaining 10% more votes, it would win 131 or 39% of the municipalities.
Since government support is stronger in less densely populated rural areas where most municipalities are located, and the opposition is stronger in the urban areas, no matter what the result is in the national tally, the government will most certainly claim victory in the total number of municipalities. Given this, the opposition has argued that the most indicative numbers to look at will be those of the major cities and the national totals. The opposition is hoping for a slight increase in its share of votes from April in order to claim it has a national majority over pro-government supporters.
A survey from polling firm Datanalisis from August showed that 31% of voters intend to vote for the Mesa de la Unidad (MUD) compared with 34% for the pro-government Gran Polo Patriótico (GPP) with 35% undecided or not responding. A Datanálisis poll from the beginning of October showed the MUD and GPP tied at 37% with 25% still undecided or not responding. In October pro-government numbers continued to slide. However, in November Maduro initiated his “war against speculation” which likely turned this slide around.
Sunday’s elections will feature several noteworthy contests in some of the most populated municipalities. Vote percentages from the April presidential elections are provided in parentheses for reference.
Metropolitan District of Caracas: Antonio Ledezma (MUD) is the incumbent candidate, and he is challenged by journalist Ernesto Villegas (PSUV). The Metropolitan District is actually composed of five municipalities: Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo, Libertador, and Sucre. While Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo, and Sucre residents have historically favored opposition candidates, Libertador – and Caracas’s poorer residents – have favored Chavismo. (April 2013: Maduro 45.01%; Capriles 56.66%).
Libertador Municipality: The current mayor and incumbent candidate is PSUV leader Jorge Rodriguez. Rodriguez served as President of the National Electoral Council in 2005 and as Vice-President under President Chávez in 2007. He is challenged by Ismael García (MUD). (April 2013: Maduro 51.32%; Capriles 48.19%)
Barinas Municipality, Barinas State: Jose Luis Machin, a militant of Acción Democrática (AD), a party once strong in this state, is the MUD candidate. Edgardo Ramírez, ex-Minister for Higher Education under Chávez, is the candidate for the PSUV. Abundio Sánchez, an alternative chavista candidate, recently withdrew from the race in support of Ramírez. (April 2013: Maduro 46.33%; Capriles 53.49%.).
Valencia Municipality, Carabobo State: Miguel Cocchiola, National Assembly (AN) representative for the Voluntad Popular party, is the MUD candidate. Cocchiola is facing corruption charges and AN President Diosdado Cabello has threatened to force a vote to revoke his parliamentary immunity. He faces Miguel Flores (PSUV) in this election. (April 2013: Maduro 44.15%; Capriles 55.63%).
Irribarren Municipality (Barquisimeto), Lara State: Alfredo Ramos, militant of La Causa R party is the MUD candidate, and Luis Alfonso Bohórquez is the candidate for the PSUV. (April 2013: Maduro 43.14%; Capriles 56.58%).
Maracaibo Municipality, Zulia State: The current mayor and incumbent MUD candidate is Evelin Trejo de Rosales, the wife of exiled former presidential candidate against Chávez, Manuel Rosales. She faces Miguel Pérez Pirela (PSUV). (April 2013: Maduro 40.31%; Capriles 59.51%).
[Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly reported that there were 365 mayoral contests instead of 337. It has been corrected.]