Op-Ed: Hugo Chavez leads in poll in Venezuelan election

Posted Sep 10, 2012 by Ken Hanly
In spite of recently receiving cancer treatments Hugo Chavez leads in a recent poll. The presidential election will be held October 7.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez returns from Cuba where he received chemo treatments.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez returns from Cuba where he received chemo treatments.
Miraflores Presidential Press Office
After a failed coup in 2002 and a boycott of national elections this time around the opposition is taking a more sophisticated approach. Henrique Capriles Radonsk, the main opposition candidate, says he is a reformer and free of any ideology even though he is a member of the conservative Justice First Party. That party stresses private investment and is critical of state economic controls. These policies are diametrically opposed to those of Chavez.
Opposition leaders now support rather than oppose the 1999 constitution as they did when it was adopted overwhelmingly in a popular referendum. Some Chavez programs have won him support among the poor. The Housing Mission has built thousands of homes and has involved barrio residents both in planning and execution of the construction rather than having the plans made and executed by outsiders and bureaucrats. The opposition is concerned about their candidates' failure to increase his support.
The Datanalisis survey gave Chavez 43.6% of the vote as against 27.7 per cent for Capriles. 62.4% rated Chavez' performance as above average against 29.4% who consider it poor. The polling company is owned by Luis Leon who is a staunch supporter of the opposition. It is doubtful that he is tinkering with the results unless he wants to fool Chavez supporters into thinking he is safely ahead!
Chavez' lead is rather surprising given doubts about his health. The opposition points out that there is no obvious successor to Chavez should his health again fail. They point to the Capriles' youthful energy in contrast to the frail Chavez.
Even Chavez has finally begun to admit that he needs to delegate power more. A former adviser the Spanish academic Juan Carlos Monedero warns of the danger of what he calls "hyperleadership". To me that sounds like a fancy name for the cult of personality. During Chavez' extended medical treatments in Cuba several top leaders filled the gap including the foreign minister Nicolas Maduro and an executive vice president Elias Jaua. There is also the National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello.
The UN Economic Commission on Latin America claims a 21% reduction in poverty between 1999 and 2010. However many in the middle and upper classes do not like the changes Chavez has brought about. This is reflected in a poll by the Venezuela Institute of Data Analysis. Relatively privileged voters favor Capriles over Chavez by 52.5% to 32.5%. To me it seems surprising that he actually has as much support in that group. However the government has passed some programs to help the middle class to dampen concern that he will eliminate private property and is mostly concerned for the poor.
For his part Capriles claims he is forward looking and does not want to turn the clock back to past policies even though those policies were implemented by those who support his candidacy. Capriles even pledges that he would not scrap but improve on Chavez' social programs. Perhaps he intends to privatize them! The results of the presidential election will help determine whether Venezuela continues with the leftist, interventionist policies of Chavez or more market friendly policies and attempts to encourage more foreign investment as would no doubt happen if Capriles should win. This is just a sample of a long analysis of the situation in Venezuela that can be found here and here. There seems little commentary or coverage of the Venezuelan election in the U.S. The appended video is from an Iranian TV outlet!