News / Americas

High Turnout Predicted for Venezuela's Presidential Election

Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, center, gestures to supporters during his closing campaign rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Oct. 4, 2012.
Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, center, gestures to supporters during his closing campaign rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Oct. 4, 2012.
Brian Padden
Venezuela's National Electoral Council has ordered an end to all campaign activities ahead of Sunday's presidential election.  While President Hugo Chavez is still ahead in many polls, his opponent, Henrique Capriles, a former state governor, has steadily been gaining ground during the campaign.

President Chavez retains a loyal following among the country's poor, who have propelled him to easy victories in past elections.  Venezuela has the world's biggest proven crude oil deposits, and during his almost 14 years in power,  Chavez has used the country's oil wealth for programs to provide his political base with food subsidies and free housing and to reduce poverty, child mortality and illiteracy.

The 58-year-old leader has had cancer surgeries and chemotherapy beginning in 2011.  Chavez says he is now cancer-free and has been out recently, looking healthy and actively campaigning.

Luis Vicente Leon, the director of a Venezuelan polling firm, says it is not only  Chavez's popularity among the poor but also his manipulation of the electoral process, that give him a huge advantage in this election.  He says Chavez has used government staff as campaign workers, commandeered free media broadcast time on a daily basis, filled the oversight body, the electoral college, with political supporters, and intimidated public sector workers to support him or face retribution.

He says such manipulation is contrary to democracy and obviously will have an impact on the election results.

Chavez's youthful rival, Henrique Capriles, has mounted a formidable campaign.  The 40-year-old Capriles has vowed to unite the country, accusing the Venezuelan leader of being "sick with power" and dividing the country. Capriles has portrayed himself as a more centrist figure, friendly to business but supporting many of the popular social programs instituted by Chavez.  And Capriles has repeatedly criticized the president over the country's regular power outages, food shortages and high murder rate, which has risen to 50 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

David Myers, a professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University, says one major advantage for Capriles is that he has been able to bring together the various parties opposed to Chavez.  He says many in the opposition believe this is their last, best chance to contain Chavez's Bolivaran style of socialism.

“The idea is, you know, if we don't beat him or we can't stake out something that we can hold in this election, the transformation that the Bolivarans are thinking about may go beyond the tipping point where we can change anything," said Myers.

Around 19 million voters are expected to participate in Sunday's election.  Some 140,000 troops have been deployed to prevent violence, and alcohol sales have been banned until Monday.

David Smilde, a sociologist at the University of Georgia, says during this election, there will be no truly independent international observers.  The groups invited to monitor the election, like UNASUR, will be operating under a number of restrictions.

“They don't have autonomy of movement.  They can't go where they decide they want to go.  They do not have independent access to the data.  And they can't make independent proclamations.  So it is not observation. Often time they don't even speak Spanish.  It's what some people have called revolutionary tourism," said Smilde.

Analysts are predicting a high turnout in this closely contested race.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Pope Beatifies Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers converge on Salvadoran capital to witness papal declaration for late Oscar Romero - now one step from Roman Catholic sainthood
More

Scores Killed in Western Mexico Gunfight

Officials say almost every person killed in Michoacan state shootout was a suspected gang member
More

Latest US-Cuban Talks Ends in Washington

Both sides cite progress on restoring diplomatic ties, but no final agreement reached
More

Tutu Lends Support to Age Campaign

Help Age International has launched Action 2015 campaign
More

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More