12:40 Final reflection: the biggest winner tonight was the Venezuela’s election day machinery as neither side brought forward significant complaints. Of course the CNE’s inability to ensure a fair campaign casts a shadow over this election.

12:35 This result clearly gives Maduro some breathing room. Compared to where he was two months ago, with a government in a tail spin, he now looks like he is in control, having gotten past a major hurdle. The opposition clearly did not get the big plebiscite win that it sought. But it is in reasonable shape with a good showing in popular vote despite all of the campaign inequities. They gained ground in number of mayors and control many important capitals. This will give them space to provide an alternative model of governance and maintain their public profile. Maduro has gained some breathing room but 2014 is guaranteed to be a difficult year. There are still very fundamental economic problems. The measures that Maduro rode to this electoral victory are short term and will likely worsen the economy in the medium term. There are still big foreign exchange distortions and a large budget deficit that need to be resolved and no easy way to do so. And without an election on the near horizon, it will be harder to blame the opposition as saboteurs.

12:30 This result is better for the opposition than I expected based on recent polls. They won all of the expected symbolic capitals, most importantly Maracaibo, and picked up Maturin and, more importantly, Barinas. They lost the popular vote by 3.2% if you directly compare PSUV versus the MUD. If you look at the coalitions they lost by 6.5%. But in either case there is a big independent vote (13% versus 8%, respectively). This means there is considerable ambiguity for spin on both sides. In sum, not a big night for the opposition, but not a disaster either. There was a big difference in speeches. Maduro provided a forceful, triumphant speech with good optics. Capriles provided a somber, short speech with very poor optics. That will make it difficult for them to spin the result in their favor in the coming days.

12:00 Capriles says “nobody should feel defeated today” suggesting that he feels defeated. Talks for 15 minutes compared to Maduro’s 30+. Unfortunate speech with poor optics. Transitions into Q&A as if it were a press conference. Globovisión breaks into it before it is over, after transmitting Maduro’s entire speech from beginning to end.

11:55 Emphasizes that Venezuela “does not have an owner.” Venezuela belongs to Venezuelans. Says the country is demanding dialogue. Emphasizes that “only” 58% voted which is nothing to be proud of. 44% for PSUV, 40% for the MUD. In other words “it’s a divided country.” He says that everyone has to sit down and read the results to see what the people wanted to express. Says this was the most abusive campaign in the history of Venezuela. Says he had to rely on a megaphone to be heard (i.e. instead of the media.). Capriles says the coming year will be difficult.

11:45 Capriles starts his press conference. Noticeably different tone and atmosphere from Maduro’s declarations.

11:35 Maduro emphasizes that they lost Maturin and Barinas because of divided candidacies. He emphasizes that the people did not betray Chávez. Begins to remember 1 year ago at this time of night when Chávez came back to leave everything in order in case he did not return. Crowd breaks into repeated Chávez chants. He announces that the “economic offensive” will move into real estate and food production. Overall forceful, triumphant speech with reasonably convincing optics.

11:20 Maduro’s entire speech on Globovisión. We’ll see if they do the same favor to Capriles. Maduro emphasizes the “gran alianza” including PCV, PPT, MEP, Podemos and “redes” showing he wants to emphasize the 6.5% difference rather than 3.2%.

11:00 Spin has begun.

11:00 Maduro takes the lead in making a victory speech. It is triumphant and with good audience response, quite a difference from his April 14 speech in which he looked disoriented and the crowd was long-faced.

10:50 Just listened to it again. Lucena provided two ways of comparing forces. First, in straight up comparison: PSUV 44.16%, MUD 40.96%, PCV 1.6% and other parties 8%. Second, PSUV and allied parties: 49.24%, MUD and allied parties 42.72%, other parties 8%. As you can imagine the opposition is going to emphasize the straight up comparison with just a 3.2% difference. The government is going to emphasize these later numbers with a 6.5% difference. Both sides will fight to claim the sizeable independent vote as their own. Overall, this vote is not a disaster for the opposition. They retain and gain some symbolic capitals and can suggest they only lost by 3.2% despite government advantages.

10:30 Indeed MUD keeps Maracaibo with 51.8% of the vote. Also just barely keeps Distrito Metropolitano where Ledezma squeaks by with less than 51% of the vote. Opposition also wins in Barinas. In straight up comparison PSUV 44.16% versus 40.96%. Still trying to figure out what she said about coalitions. Turnout was 59%.

10:05 Rectors on their way down from vote counting room to conference room meaning pronouncement is imminent.

9:45 Credible rumors that opposition is on track to win 110 mayor contests and retains Maracaibo (but no official results yet). This would be a good result. Reactions of Ismael Garcia (denouncing various electoral conditions) suggest his candidacy is not doing well. CNE Rectors taking longer than anticipated which suggests some important races are still too close to call.

8:35 5 rectors are going up to the sala de totalización (vote counting room) which suggests they are getting close.

8:15 There are reports that the CNE has 90% votes already transmitted.