While Chavez continues to use a violent rhetoric, talking even of the upcoming election as an “international battle” and a “battle of socialism against capitalism”, the campaign draws to its end and it looks like the key to the result will be whether people will turn in mass to the polls or not. Indeed, though Henrique Capriles is leading in the polls, fears of disturbances coming from the inside or the outside of the country could drive some voters to stay at home, and this would favour the incumbent Chavez.
The following bulletin summarizes the most important events on electoral matters in Venezuela during the third week of September (Wednesday 19th – Wednesday 26th). Enjoy the reading! Pierre-Antoine KLETHI
With only 10 days left to the presidential elections and the latest polls on this matter already published, a sustained growth regarding the vote intention towards the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles correlates notoriously to the stagnation in the vote intention towards Hugo Chávez. However, the studies made by the specialist Christian Burgazzi draw our attention, as he highlights how hard it is to clarify the Venezuelan electoral reality to the international public opinion, due to the governments’ campaign monopoly abroad. Polls evidently show that Capriles’ “town by town strategy” and “two states a day marathon” is reaching many more Venezuelans, than the “low powered” Chávez mobile. Nonetheless, it looks like the main enemy for these elections will be public fear to vote.
1. Declarations of the National Electoral Council
Regarding the delay in the accreditation process of the voting tables members in the voting centers, representative of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Vicente Díaz, declared that all problems were resolved and regularized. “Those who were trained and have yet to hold their credentials can go to their stations and pick up their authorizations.” He also stated that polls are to be published until next Sunday, September 30th. On another note, he emphasized that the prisons’ population is under the direct responsibility of the State, referring to their participation in the elections. Furthermore, he stated that concerning the case of the judge María Lourdes Afiuni – current political prisoner –“if her right to vote is not guaranteed, the government will be undermining her political rights, hence, her human rights”.
2. Comando Venezuela counts with more than 210.000 witnesses for presidential elections
In a gathering with the international press on September 19th, Comando Venezuela’s national coordinator, Leopoldo López, assured that “to win the presidential elections in Venezuela, two elements are needed: votes and the capacity to defend those votes”. The objective of Comando Venezuela is to have presence in all 13,810 electoral centres, and in order to do so, they count with 120,000 witnesses. López highlighted that in order to make this happen they need to “deploy different types of strategies, to arrive to remote places through waterway, airway, donkeys and jeeps”. Lastly, he stated that FARC is present in neighbouring states of Colombia, such as Apure, Táchira and Zulia, and that complaints had already been made to the CNE, with an additional petition to watch the voting centres that traditionally present violent situations.
3. Capriles met with Colombia’s President Santos
The presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski met with the current president of the neighbouring country of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday, September 19th. They gathered in Bogotá, in the Colombian presidential house, La Casa de Nariño. Capriles took the opportunity to express his interest in keeping bilateral relations with Colombia, when he gets elected president. Capriles paid special attention to commercial exchange, peace and security as a common objective in the dynamic border that both countries share. Santos, meanwhile, stated Colombia’s neutral position regarding the electoral process in Venezuela. He did not overlook the necessity to keep working in harmonious ways to facilitate closer ties and to highlight the significant results of cooperation achieved in security matters. Likewise, he called upon the Venezuelan people to assist in a massive and pacific manner to the electoral centres.
4. The closure of Capriles’ campaign began in Vargas and Barinas
On Monday September 24th presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, initiated the closure of his campaign in the states of Vargas and Barinas.
In Vargas, he stated his wishes that on October 7th the people express themselves through their vote, free of fear. He made a special mention to all public officials, assuring them that they can always count on his support. He regretted that a group of government sympathizers sparked up violent situations during the event. He stated that on Election Day “we will defeat violence and we will choose the path of peace”. Likewise, Capriles Radonski assured that the true winners of the presidential elections would be the Venezuelans who turned up to the voting centres (1).
In the state of Barinas, birthplace to the incumbent president Hugo Chávez, the opposition candidate Capriles, pointed out the great contradiction in that “being the birthplace of he who has governed for 14 years”, it is the state with the highest poverty index. He stated: “He who forgets his birthplace has no right to govern it”. Furthermore, he declared his commitment to the poor people of Barinas, adding that “there is a path to move forward”. He highlighted the issues of public services, electricity, roads, lack of high schools and housing, hospitals that don’t function, the increasing violence and specially “the lack of opportunities”. The candidate ended the event expressing: “Don’t be afraid, the people have to speak up on October 7th, the vote is secret (…) Venezuela will win! We’re all Venezuela!” (2)
The act that will officially close the opposition candidate’s electoral campaign is scheduled for September 30th in the city of Caracas. The demonstration already has the pertinent permits and pretends to culminate in Bolivar Avenue, the biggest street within the Capital District (3).
5. Chávez suspends speech in Catia and assures elections are part of an “international battle”
On Monday September 17th, the campaign of the candidate Hugo Chávez carried out a caravan in Caracas that would head towards Catia, a sector of the Capital District known for its slums. Nonetheless, given the low attendance of neighbors, the President decided to suspend his speech set for the closure of the act, after having covered two kilometers in the transportation known as the “Chávez mobile”.
The President gave a brief statement to the press before engaging in his caravan: “Within a few days it will be shown what the people are capable of. We will give the bourgeoisie a historic lesson” (4). Furthermore, he assured that the elections form part of an “international battle (…) it is a battle between the truth against the falsehood, between the people and the bourgeoisie, socialism against capitalism” (5).
6. The Undecided and fear
The CNE scheduled September 30th as the last day to refer to opinion polls concerning the presidential elections; reason why this past week several polling agencies and analysts have presented numerous results and observations on the topic.
Consultant Christian Burgazzi indicated that an important aspect to look into is the group of “undecided” voters, who he considers are not such by stating: “It is not that they don’t know and don’t respond… they do know, but choose not to respond”. He added that the high percentage that certain polling agencies give to this group indicate that “a third candidate for the Venezuelan Presidency has emerged: it’s called DK/DA (doesn’t know, doesn’t answer) and it has all the chances of winning, given that it’s numbers have been climbing from 1.89% to 3.35% in just one month”.
Also, he quoted an analysis published by political forecaster Yván Serra in his blog (6), (winner of the Victory Award for being one the best political blogs of the region), which “demonstrates that there is a high correlation between the DK/DA and Capriles’ voters; in other words, they clearly lean towards Capriles”.
Burgazzi pointed out that in several occasions the answers of the undecided are due to fear of revealing their political stance; a fact proven by a study made by the Investigation and Social Action Centre of the Company of Christ in Venezuela, in April 2011. According to it, 42.6% are scared of expressing their opinions (7, 8). An exercise carried out by the polling agencies Varianzas and Consultores 21 intended to get respondents to answer more truthfully, by having them place their votes on a card and putting it in a bag. With it, Consultores 21 demonstrated that by simply asking whom they would vote for, 46.5% said Capriles and 45.7% said Chávez. On the other hand, through the secret vote simulation, 48.9% said Capriles and 45.7% said Chávez (9). That represents an increase of 2.4% for Capriles.