This is the first of a projected two-volume study on election campaigning in Venezuela. Its authors, John D. Martz and Enrique Baloyra, have endeavored to build upon analyses of earlier Venezuelan election campaigns in order “to link the behavior of campaign actors to their evaluation by the mass public,” and “to link the functional consequences of campaign tactics and strategies to the behavior of the mass public.” The major focus is on campaigning in 1973, the year that Venezuela’s social democratic Acción Democrática party recaptured the presidency from the Christian Democrats (COPEI). In this election, AD’s Carlos Andrés Pérez and COPEI’s Lorenzo Fernández garnered 85.5 percent of the total vote, a dramatic rise from the 57 percent these two parties’ presidential candidates received in 1968.
Martz and Baloyra analyze the 1973 campaign by means of interviews with participants, by observing rallies, speeches and travels, and by drawing on accounts of campaigns in other democratic settings. Their study begins by refining a theoretical framework which has evolved in a dialogue between this reviewer and Martz. The core of the Martz and Baloyra study of campaigning in 1973 is its application of the refined framework’s three basic variables—political setting, mobilization of forces and campaign mobilization. The authors conclude by generalizing about the overall significance of political campaigns, by reassessing their model of campaigning and by setting forth a research agenda for the comparative study of democratic campaigning.
Martz and Baloyra clearly have produced a useful and impressively detailed account of electoral campaigning that rises above journalism while steering clear of excess jargon. Unfortunately, the work disappoints when it reassesses the democratic campaigning model. Less than 4 of 339 pages is dedicated to this task, an undertaking of major importance given their goal of increasing the capability of social science to assess the impact of campaigning on electoral outcomes. Reassessment of the model would have been greatly facilitated had the authors drawn more extensively on published materials and personal recollections of campaigning in 1963 and 1968.
Based on this research, scholars can look forward in the second volume to a careful treatment of Venezuelan voter attitudes toward political parties and candidates in 1973. In terms of the next step for researching parties and elections in Venezuela, the most productive use of scarce resources calls for examining events surrounding the 1978 election to both refine existing hypotheses about the impact of democratic campaigning on electoral outcomes and to provide perspective on the broader question of party system evolution in Venezuela. It remains an enigma, the exploration of which promises major theoretical insights, that Latin America’s most truly competitive party system took root in a country that until 1959 had experienced less than one year of elected democratic government.