Yes, FT, that’s the same headline as yours. Because you didn’t write what’s at stake. I don’t know if anyone really cares exactly how many votes one side or the other gets; certainly the idea that this is a “plebiscite” is totally overplayed and evidence-free. What’s at stake is how many mayoral offices are controlled by the pro-central-government PSUV, and how many are controlled by other parties, broadly called “the opposition.” There are two things at stake here.
First, at the local level, in Caracas, an opposition sweep* would allow the city to become governable. The PSUV mayor of Libertador borough, the governor of the Federal Region, and central government have boycotted all cooperation with the opposition mayors of Caracas’ four eastern boroughs, Sucre, Chacao, Baruta and El Hatillo. As a result, you get absurd situations such as nice new, broad sidewalks in Chacao that end abruptly at the River Guaire, where pedestrians are forced into the busy street in order to cross the only bridge for a kilometer in either direction. Or worse, the lack of coordination between planning of streets, buses, cable cars and subway. Or competing police jurisdictions. And most of all, the sad sight of poorer opposition areas, especially Sucre, being left without the money to collect trash or permission to raise trash rates, while Libertador gets all the money it can spend to beautify plazas and historic buildings. So for Caracas itself, there is the chance to stop being the worst capital in South America, and to start living up to its potential — it could be a marvelous city.
Second, much more important, having more mayoral offices would make it much easier for the opposition to mount a recall campaign at the midpoint of President Nicolas Maduro’s term. The constitution allows for recalls, but as the opposition has seen in repeated elections since 2006, all politics are local. And winning a national race requires local organizing. Who carries voters to the polls in special buses? Who has the money to cover the city in campaign propaganda for one side or the other? Mayors matter at election time.
Other than that, as you say, not much to see here. The PSUV has treated the campaign as a bit of a joke, while the opposition has preferred to spend money fighting over a tiny number of votes in El Hatillo while there are almost no posters, grafittis or any other public displays of support for the regional mayor candidate or the candidate for Libertador, Ismael Garcia. Here in Caracas, I see no window signs, almost no soaped-up car windscreens favoring one side or the other (I’ve seen two pro-PSUV camioneticas in three weeks, not quite a campaign), no catchy campaign jingles, few billboards, no clever little marketing campaigns like the last Chávez election, when they gave out PSUV jewelry and silkscreens. None of that. I predict low turnout.
*UPDATE: Just to be clear, this is extremely unlikely, as Libertador is reasonably rojo-rojito, and more importantly, the government really, really doesn’t want to lose it. Even less likely would be a PSUV sweep, as Chacao, Baruta and El Hatillo are all extremely pro-opposition territories.