Nearly 19 million Venezuelans are expected to vote on October 7 to elect their president for the period 2013-2019. Incumbent Hugo Chavez and opposition leader Henrique Capriles are ahead in the polls.
For the first time in the past 14 years, Venezuela has a competitive electoral process without a candidate too far ahead in the polls. Several recent surveys have shown Chavez slightly ahead or even statistically tied, with Capriles, his main opponent. Four other candidates will be in the ballot; however, they are not considered relevant in the final results.
According to the latest survey by Datanalisis (released on September 25), Hugo Chavez, 58 (representing the coalition known as GPP [Great Patriotic Pole]), is ahead of Capriles, candidate of the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable), by 10 points (49.4% to 39%) among those expressing a preference. But 8 percent have indicated their status as undecided and other 5.9 percent the possibility of changing preference. This segment could make a difference on Sunday's election results.
For the first time in several years, the opposition can say it has a unique voice, represented by the
Henrique Capriles, candidate for President of Venezuela.
MUD, and a single candidate, 40-year-old lawyer Henrique Capriles, the former governor of the state of Miranda, which has used his charisma and eloquence to rally those opposing an extension of Chavez’ mandate. Capriles has been very active and has travelled the country, in contrast with the president’s campaign, which has been somewhat affected by his illness. In the last hours of the campaign, which closes Friday, the opposition candidate called on Venezuelans to "overcome fear" saying that Venezuela will not "be in chaos" if the president is not re-elected.
Chavez closed his campaign last night with a huge rally in Caracas where he called his supporters to continue supporting his Bolivarian revolution and to reject his opponent’s political aspirations. The president doesn’t normally refer to Mr. Capriles by name. He often calls him “the candidate of the Right", “the lackey of imperialism, or simply "the loser", reports TheTelegraph.
One important factor in the electoral process will be Venezuelans voting abroad. The opposition has reported that there are about 450,000 Venezuelans living out of the country. They count on the majority support of close to 12,000 Venezuelans living in Canada, about 1,700 registered voters in Chile and about 19,500 Venezuelans living in the United States, particularly in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The opposition’s expectations are based on polls showing that most Venezuelan voters registered abroad oppose the government of Hugo Chavez.
Whoever wins the election will have to deal with the violence existing in the country. The death of three Capriles’ adherents during the campaign highlights an increasing problem being experienced nationwide. Estimates of government agencies in Caracas indicate that while in 1998 there were 4,500 violent deaths, the number of homicides reached over 16,000 in 2009 (the last year of available official statistics). According to figures of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence OVV), 19,336 homicides occurred in Venezuela in 2011. About 70% of Venezuelans consider crime as the most serious problem facing the country today, reports NoticiasMontreal (in Spanish).