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Washington, D.C.- A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that there may be a significant disparity between the popular vote and legislative seats claimed by parties in Venezuela’s December 6 National Assembly elections. The paper, “Projecting a Range of Possible Results in the December 2015 Elections for National Assembly in Venezuela,” by economist David Rosnick, finds that a wide range of outcomes are possible in the elections, based on current polling data and examines the impact of an inherent rural/small state advantage for the governing party coalition, and realigned party coalitions. The paper finds, for example, that a “unified” opposition might need as much as a 71.8 percent increase in votes over the 2010 elections — with the government losing 10.8 percent of its votes at the same time — to get a supermajority, leaving the current government with just 55 seats.
“Media reports have so far been based on national polling, without any explanation of the system of representation,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot. “As a result, most people following the news would think that an opposition majority is inevitable, and a super-majority (60 percent or two-thirds) is likely. These results are possible, but by no means guaranteed, and we cannot even say how likely they are.”
The paper illustrates how the current government may benefit from a “rural and small-state advantage”: “It is important to understand that the difference between the percentage of the vote and the percentage of seats is not the result of ‘gerrymandering’ or any other manipulation of districts. Like the United States and many other countries, Venezuela has a system of representation that gives disproportional representation to states with smaller populations,” the paper says. Since the Venezuelan government has a single chamber legislature, the disproportional representation of sparsely-populated or rural states is not nearly as large as in the United States, which has a Senate that allocates two seats to each state. But it is still significant in Venezuela’s National Assembly, and unlike the U.S., where rural areas are more conservative, in Venezuela they are more likely to vote for the left.
The paper simulates — based on the 2010 election results — the 2015 election under various assumptions regarding the government’s share of the vote and the degree to which the opposition is fractured among different coalitions. The projections look at the percent increase in votes the opposition would need in order to secure a simple majority, three-fifths, and two-thirds majority in the Assembly.
The paper notes that it’s the changed alignment of parties in its coalition that gives the government some advantage over 2010. But counteracting this is the government’s loss of support since then in nationwide polling.
“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of international attacks on the integrity of the voting system, and this could provoke instability or even violence depending on the electoral outcome,” said Weisbrot. This is especially true in light of the lack of understanding of how the system of representation works.”