It has been six weeks since Chavez’s death and the race is on in the election for his successor. The two front-runners, Nicolas Maduro and Henrique Capriles, have been campaigning relentlessly to sway the Venezuelan people’s votes, using their own brand of tactics to influence the people’s choice. With voting taking place today however, the finish line is now in sight and the gap between the two is much closer than originally thought.
Capriles lost to Chavez in last years October presidential vote by 10 percentage points, a significant margin but the closest any opposition has ever come to matching Chavez. The real question now is whether Venezuelan voters today will vote in similar numbers for his anointed successor, Maduro, whose lead has dropped to 7 percentage points according to one survey.
“We are going to have a giant victory. The bigger the margin, the more peaceful the country will be,” was Maduro’s outlook on today’s election. Granted, Maduro still remains ahead of Capriles by a significant margin, but his campaign has been dominated by controversy. Most recently the opposition have filled an official complaint against the government, accusing it of breaking the law by using state television to promote Maduro’s electoral campaign.
Capriles alleges his opponent was “violating all the electoral norms,” accusing those in government of knowing nothing other than “the abuse of power”. It is no secret Maduro has been making the most of his position as interim-president throughout the past six weeks, using the power at his disposal to promote his campaign. But will it be enough for the man who calls himself the late president’s ‘son’?
Maduro’s campaign has revolved around painting himself as the next Chavez, adopting many of his predecessor’s tactics. He lacks the charisma of the late president however – a characteristic which made Chavez so popular – and the nation is financially much worse off than it had been during last year’s elections. Capriles has been trying to reveal to the Venezuelan people Maduro’s true colours, painting him as a poor imitation (which he largely is) and pointing towards his poor track record during his short time as interim president.
Doubts have been raised over Maduro’s ability to lead the Venezuelan people, and understandably so. Capriles campaign has revolved around simply pointing out “the incompetence of the state,” but there are doubts whether his tactics will sway Chavistas into betraying their late president’s dying wish for Maduro to succeed him.
Today a decision will be made on the future of Venezuela. Will the people honour the memory of Chaves and vote for Maduro, continuing his own brand of hardline socialism? Or will a new leader in the form of Henrique Capriles guide the people towards a new model influenced by the Brazilian system, one which mixes widespread state spending with business-friendly policies? The race to be president is nearly over, but the