“Just because the organization takes them to the polls doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for Maduro,” he said.
The opposition agrees that the vote is secret, but it has also complained that fingerprint scanners attached to the voting booths are designed to generate doubts among the electorate. They’ve petitioned to have the scanners removed to no avail.
When Chávez died March 5, it triggered snap elections and one of the briefest races in history. During the 10-day campaign, both sides made lofty promises to raise minimum wage, fight spiraling crime and jumpstart the economy, but policy discussions took a backseat to personal attacks. Analysts say it’s unlikely that either side poached rival votes — rather both camps were focused on riling up supporters.
And both sides face turnout challenges. The opposition is coming off of two defeats and some worry that demoralized voters may stay home. The ruling PSUV has always seen abstention spike when Chávez is not on the ticket. During the October presidential race, 80 percent of voters hit the polls. Three months later, for the governor’s race, only 54 percent voted.
“Turnout will be the key,” Barclays investment bank wrote to its clients. Citing a Datanalisis poll, the bank is expecting a tight race if turnout is high. But the candidates are running close enough that “depending on which side abstains the most, the results of the election could change,” it said.
The oppostion is asking voters to space voting throughout the day to avoid bottlenecks and to keep an eye out for irregularities. Maduro has asked supporters to wake up at 3 a.m. — three hours before polls open — and descend on voting stations like an “avalanche.” In the past, the government has shot off fireworks and played the reveille to marshal troops.
But without the charismatic Chávez in the mix, it may have trouble getting some voters out of bed, said Saúl Cabrera with the Consultores 21 polling firm. Although Maduro is trying to turn this into a tribute vote for his fallen boss, “I don’t believe the mobilization effort will be as effective this time,” he said.
Gregoria Martinez, 40, from the northern city of Anaco, had herded 60 co-workers in over seven hours to be present at Maduro’s closing rally in Caracas. Everyone got a hat and a t-shirt and three meals. Martinez said that kind of logistical support will be key on election day. But the reason it works is because Chavistas are passionate about the cause.
“If the opposition ever wants to win they need to get organized, “ she said. “They also each need to do their part.”