Venezuela’s Presidential Elections 2013 Live Blog
|Written by CEPR|
|Sunday, 14 April 2013 06:15|
10:12 PM EDT: The National Electoral Council (CNE) officially declared Nicolás Maduro president. Tibisay Lucena, CNE’s president, made the announcement with Maduro standing by her side.
According to unconfirmed reports, after being declared the winner, Maduro suggested that the equivalent of a coup is being prepared by those who will not respect Venezuelan constitutions. Jorge Rodríguez, the governing PSUV’s campaign manager, has been quoted saying that Capriles, by disregarding the CNE’s results, “is calling for a coup against Venezuelan democracy.”
Regarding a potential audit or re-count, Professor David Smilde reports that an audit of a majority of the votes is always conducted after an election:
Venezuela uses electronic voting machines that emit a paper ballot which the voter then deposits in a sealed box. In all elections 53-54% of these boxes are subject to citizen audit immediately after the election. Citizens who were selected to work a given election table and witness from political parties go through the votes one by one. That process takes a couple of hours.
Mark Weisbrot noted this in his response to initial reports of the White House’s statement in support of a full re-count, which he called "calculated" and "very suspicious." Since then, the State Department press office released the transcript for its daily press briefing, which demonstrated the U.S. government’s insistence on calling for a recount despite no indications that the CNE was considering such a move. Reporters present at the briefing attempted to get a firm answer from the State Department as to whether it was suggesting that the U.S. would not recognize the election unless all votes were re-counted, as only the opposition has demanded. Here is an excerpt from that exchange.
QUESTION: Yes. Actually – thank you – actually the electoral national council has not said that there will be a recount. It’s something that the opposition has asked for and Maduro has said that he’s for an audit, which is a regular process that they do over there. But the electoral national council has not said anything on that, and actually they said today that they will announce Maduro as an official winner. So are you worried about that?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, it’s our opinion that it makes sense that a recount should be completed before any additional steps, including official certification of the results, occur. So that’s what we’re urging at this time.
QUESTION: So would it be worrying if they announce Maduro as a winner without a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I think I’ve stated as clear as I can that any – the recount should be completed before any additional steps are taken. That’s the U.S. position.
QUESTION: Well, does that mean that the legitimacy – in your eyes, the legitimacy of the election will be compromised if the council goes ahead and certifies the vote before a recount?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, they haven’t yet, so we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but Patrick, this is one of those hypothetical questions that you’re inconsistently choosing not to answer.
MR. VENTRELL: All right.
QUESTION: You wouldn’t – so it would be fine with you if they go ahead and do the recount – don’t do the recount before certifying. Is that what you’re saying?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not going to be getting into hypotheticals. I mean, your hypothetical had like a triple negative in there. I’m not even sure I followed it. But the bottom line is --
QUESTION: Oh, okay. So if North Korea tests a nuclear device, there won’t be any response from the U.S? That’s a hypothetical.
MR. VENTRELL: Thanks for --
QUESTION: So why can you not answer? There’s certainly – you must have an opinion one way or the other. If you say that you think that it makes sense and there should be a recount before the vote is certified, surely you can say something about if there isn’t a recount and the vote is certified.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we want --
QUESTION: Would that --
MR. VENTRELL: Matt --
QUESTION: -- be problematic for the United States?
MR. VENTRELL: Let me be very clear. We want the recount to happen.
MR. VENTRELL: If it doesn’t, then we’ll address it at that time. We’re not there yet. We’re very clear that we want the recount to happen.
4:48 PM EDT: As opposed to the response from the White House and from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has unequivocally stood by the official results from last night. UNASUR, which sent an election monitoring delegation to Venezuela, said in part:
Regarding the official electoral results released yesterday, UNASUR’s Electoral Accompaniment Mission declares—as it has since its installation in the country— that the results announced should be respected because they were emitted by the National Electoral Council, the only competent authority in these matters according to the constitutional and legal provisions of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
You can read the whole statement here (in Spanish).
4:47 PM EDT: In a Q&A on the Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) Venezuela Politics and Human Rights blog, Professor David Smilde offers this analysis of a potential audit:
It is unlikely that an audit of paper ballots would show a different result from the electronic tally. The paper ballots are actually produced by the machine itself when a citizen votes. This system was developed at a time in which there was a lot of distrust in the idea of electronically tabulating and transmitting the votes. The paper ballot was a backup. But the electronic machines have been audited many times by international, national and opposition technicians. More likely to affect the vote totals will be inclusion of the international vote (which will be overwhelming for Capriles) and addressing the 3,000 irregularities the opposition says it has documented. Even then, however, the vote’s outcome is unlikely to be reversed.
With regards to the U.S. role in the post-election environment, Smilde writes that “[t]he U.S. would do well to stay on the sidelines.”
4:46 PM EDT: White House spokesperson Jay Carney told a news briefing that an audit of all votes cast is “necessary.” Reuters reported Carney’s statement regarding the election as follows:
"Given the tightness of the result - around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates - the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news briefing.
"This appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results," Carney said. "In our view rushing to a decision in these circumstances would be inconsistent with the expectations of Venezuelans for a clear and democratic outcome."
If the White House merely wanted to support a 100 percent audit, it could do so privately, even to both sides (the NYT reported today that President Maduro reached out to the Obama administration through Bill Richardson, looking to improve relations). The White House statement today shows once again that it is definitely not interested in improving relations.
Click here to read the entire post at the Americas Blog.
4:07 PM EDT: The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, expressed his support for a full re-count. The relevant section of Insulza's brief statement reads:
“Faced with the results released by the National Electoral Council (CNE) at the end of the day Sunday, and then the announcement by the representatives of the government and the opposition on the need to conduct an audit and a full recount of the vote, Secretary General Insulza expressed his support for this initiative and made available to Venezuela the OAS team of electoral experts, of recognized prestige and long experience in the field.”
According to reports, Maduro has said he is open to a full re-count and is confident in the results:
“We are calling for respect of the results. If they want do an audit they are welcome to do it. They can do whatever audit they want to do. We trust in the Venezuelan electoral system. We welcome an audit.”
3:29 PM EDT: Reporters in Venezuela have said that Capriles is holding a press conference to denounce the National Electoral Council's (CNE) decision to swear in Maduro as president. According to these reports, the opposition camp has sent a letter to CNE requesting that they delay the official ceremony. In the event that the swearing-in moves ahead as supposedly planned, Capriles has reportedly called on his supporters to rally outside CNE offices around the country. Reporters have also said that Capriles called for rallies at 8pm this evening, encouraging his supporters to make their voices heard and express their anger. The potential for conflicts has been noted.
2:43 PM EDT: CEPR coverage continues with analysis from Mark Weisbrot.
"Capriles is demanding an audit of 100 percent of all votes; Maduro has apparently agreed. But the audit is unlikely to change the outcome. Unlike in the United States, where in a close election we really don’t know who won, the Venezuelan system is very secure. Since there are two records of every vote (machine and paper ballot), it is nearly impossible to rig the machines and stuff the ballot boxes to match. Jimmy Carter called Venezuela’s electoral system 'the best in the world.'"
Read the rest of the Guardian column here.
2. This morning on Democracy Now!, Mark Weisbrot debated reporter and author Rory Carroll on the implications of the election results. Weisbrot started by noting the socioeconomic gains as well as the significance of Venezuela’s heralded voting system:
". . . the majority, at least, did vote for continuity, and I think they did so mainly because there was a large increase in living standards for people over the past 14 years . . . the poverty was reduced by 50 percent, extreme poverty by 70 percent. You had millions of people got access to free healthcare for the first time. Unemployment was 14-and-a-half percent when Chávez took office; it was 8 percent last year.
"I think also it was very lucky for the country that the Chávez government established this really secure electoral system. Now, you can see Capriles is—he’s kind of playing to the part of the opposition that in every election has not wanted to accept the results. Every election since 2004, there’s been a part of the opposition that just says, you know, 'We don’t buy it.' But he’s not really going to do anything, I don’t think, because it’s very easy to have an audit. The system they have, Jimmy Carter called it the best in the world."
1:10 AM EDT: Corey Robin provides a glimpse of what much initial U.S. media coverage of the election results is likely to look like, comparing the early New York Times treatment of Venezuela's election yesterday with Bush's similarly close victory over Kerry in the 2004 U.S. elections.
April 15, 12:55 AM EDT: Capriles is speaking, saying he will not recognize the result until there has been a "vote by vote" count.
11:53 PM EDT: Maduro is giving his victory speech. What Capriles will do is the big question now.
11:49 PM EDT: CNE announces that with 78.71 voter participation, Maduro has won with 50.66 percent of the vote, to Capriles' 49.07. CNE president Tibisay Lucena says the result is "irreversible."
11:45 PM EDT: The CNE is about to make an announcement. Watch live here.
11:36 PM EDT: The lack of updates here is due to the lack of news from the CNE. Reportedly the CNE has counted almost all of the votes, but they have yet to release any results. There is a rumor that they will convince the loser to accept the results before going public with them. The results are also widely rumored - and increasingly widely expected - to be close.
9:57 PM EDT: An election monitor in Caracas reports:
9:19 PM EDT: Although no results have been announced yet, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is crying foul, according to Reuters, accusing the CNE of a plot to "change the will of the people." As we noted at the beginning of our blogging today, Capriles has expressed distrust in the CNE ahead of these elections even though he quickly accepted the election results when the CNE announced them in October.
9:09 PM EDT: It is looking increasingly likely that voter turnout today was indeed high, perhaps close to the levels seen in the October elections. Luis Vicente Leon of opposition polling firm Datanálisis has also said the shorter lines observed by many today may result from the quicker, more familiar voting process.
9:07 PM EDT: An election monitor in Maracaibo, Zulia reports:
8:57 PM EDT: An informal election monitor (whom we have not cited before) sends us this report:
8:07 PM EDT: Several other chavista Twitter accounts have also been hacked, including those of the PSUV, National Assembly president Diasdado Cabello, and Foreign Minister Elias Jaua. The Venezuelan government reportedly temporarily interrupted Internet service in an effort to stem the hacks.
6:30 PM EDT: Polls officially closed.
6:21 PM EDT: Neil Findlay, a Labour party member of the Scottish parliament monitoring today's elections, has an article in The ScotsmanThe Scotsman today that reads in part:
6:20 PM EDT: Just 10 more minutes before official closing of polls.
5:45 PM EDT: Another observer in the Capital District reports on what he saw today:
The accompaniment group I was with visited three polling locations. At around 10 in the morning, we observed orderly voting in a primary school in the Caracas satellite city of Ciudad Caribia – between Caracas and the airport. In the course of 15 minutes, six people filed through and voted rapidly and without incident. Our group was permitted to talk with the testigos – the witnesses representing political parties (PSUV and MUD). Everyone was calm, polite and cooperative. We were able to inspect the voting machines; the two mesas – polling tables or stations – indicated that a total of 291 people had voted at that location.
We then returned to Caracas and stopped in to two polling locations in the city between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm: the Liceo Fermín Toro (high school) and the Casa Colonial Santa Ines. The Liceo had 14 mesas and many more people voting than in Ciudad Caribia, but again everything was orderly, quick, and without any incident. I observed eight people go through the several steps of voting at three different mesas; they generally appeared content with the process. This included two men in wheelchairs who cheerfully held up their inked fingers showing that they had voted. Each mesa had testigos from both the PSUV and MUD, although at one mesa I was told that there were two PSUV representatives observing the process.
Finally, at the Casa Colonial, there were three mesas, one of which was moving rather slowly, while the other two advanced efficiently. I asked a man and woman near the front of the slower line how long they had been waiting; they responded that it had been an hour. I then inquired with a woman wearing a CNE vest why that mesa line was not advancing more rapidly, and she explained that there had been a rush of people registered with that mesa. The queuing woman whom I had spoken with three minutes earlier was then called, and advanced to vote.
5:28 PM EDT: Aljazeera English also has a live blog on today's elections here with many Tweets and photos of the candidates, etc.
They go on to note that “The CNE will use the same RE these elections that it used for the 2012 elections.” This is an interesting fact, since the Capriles campaign expressed trust in the CNE ahead of the 2012 elections and Capriles was quick to concede once the CNE announced the official results. As we have noted, the Capriles campaign has expressed much less faith in the CNE this time.
In assessing the advantages supposedly enjoyed by either the incumbent or the opposition, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz state that
In what may be an especially pertinent observation for today, Smilde and Pérez Hernáiz note that
4:59 PM EDT: An election monitor in Zulia state reports:
4:48 PM EDT: An election monitor who was in Carabobo this morning notes that "Throughout the morning I was thanked by various people and many expressed pride in having a fair and transparent system."
3:35 PM EDT: CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes:
Now of course there has never, in 14 years while Chavez was president, been any “leak” of a secret ballot. Let us imagine that such a thing had happened. If it were true, it would be background information that reporters would include in any article about the voting process. How could Inskeep think that something like this – which would be quite a scandal almost anywhere in the world – could be true, without having read it anywhere?
The most likely answer is that he has gotten his information about Venezuela from NPR, and from there the impression he has gotten is that the place really is some kind of dictatorship where even secret ballots can be publicly divulged. Again, I don’t want to blame him for not knowing very much about Venezuela. It’s not his beat. Or for having a grossly distorted picture of Venezuela from NPR – that is the fault of NPR’s reporting on Venezuela, and the sources that it relies upon. My point is that the standards for reporting on Venezuela are so low that somebody could feed him this false statement and he just tweets it without a second thought. It’s really just “anything goes” so long as it’s something nasty about the country.
A follower corrected Inskeep and to his credit he posted another tweet:
Note the citation of the book, Dictator’s Learning Curve. There are no serious political scientists of any stripe in the United States that have referred to Chavez as a “dictator,” and if they did they would not be taken seriously by anyone who knows anything about the country.
As for the leak that he refers to, these were not ballots, but signatures on a recall petition. In the United States, in California, Illinois, and other states with recall procedures, petitions are a matter of public record. They are not ballots, and they are not secret.
2:58 PM EDT: The opposition campaign of Henrique Capriles appears to have a strategy of mobilizing students and other supporters to go to the polls this afternoon. The campaign, called "Operation Avalanche" has been trending on Twitter for a few hours now. Capriles just Tweeted, for example:
2:46 PM EDT: While journalists and media reports describe seeing a lower turnout around the country - especially as compared to the October elections - as can be seen below, election monitors around Venezuela (in Carabobo, Caracas, Miranda and Zulia) have reported a relatively high turnout at several voting centers. Several reported that 50 percent of registered voters, or close to it, had voted by 12 noon or soon after. And at the Jacobo Borges Museum in Catia, in the west of Caracas, for example, approximately 25 percent of registered voters had voted by 10 am - implying a voting participation rate of 75 percent for that center should the trend continue.
At many locations, however, the same monitors have described short - or even in some cases - no lines. The quicker process that these monitors have noted (some also were in Venezuela for the October elections) could help explain why there could be both a decent voter turnout and short lines.
1:49 PM EDT: For anyone that missed it, Nicolás Maduro had an op-ed in The Guardianon Friday making his case for why he should be Venezuela's next president.
1:29 PM EDT: An election monitor in Miranda state reports:
1:21 PM EDT: An election monitor in Maracaibo, Zulia state reports:
1:13 PM EDT: An election monitor in Caracas reports:
12:59 PM EDT: An election monitor in Valencia, Carabobo state reports:
12:33 PM EDT: An election monitor in Lara state reports on what she has seen so far today, including visits to offices that respond to violations of election laws and technical problems (respectively), meetings with opposition groups and more:
12:12 PM EDT: An election monitor in Zulia state reports:
11:51 AM EDT:
An election monitor in Caracas reports:
10:30 am: We're in the neighborhood of Gramoven within the parish of Sucre in the west of Caracas. We're visiting a voter center within a complex called the Fabricio Ojeda Endogenous Development Nucleus. It includes a vocational training center, cooperatives that make shoes and T-shirts, and various social missions.
There are a little over 1200 [registered] voters here and, as of 9:20 am, close to 300 people have voted. There are three voting tables here and at two of them, not all of the personnel that administer the fingerprinting machine, the signature sheets, and other steps in the voting process showed up. (Note: the personnel are made up of trained members of the local community that are trained by the CNE.) As a result, the witnesses representing the candidates have been asked to replace these missing personnel so that the process can move forward. This is potentially problematic given that these witnesses aren't necessarily trained, and given that they may not be able to fulfill their role as witnesses. Nevertheless, no one is complaining. In fact, everyone - including the witnesses from both camps - say that all the voting has taken place without a hitch. There are no lines in this voting center, leaving the impression that turnout is low compared to the last elections, at this time of day.
10:36 am: At a voting center located in Jacobo Borges Museum in Catia, in the west of Caracas. Four voting tables, and 1934 registered voters. 480 have voted at 10 am, approximately 25 percent. The exhibits in the museum have been removed to make space for the voting tables. Mothers arrive with their infants slung over their shoulders and elderly voters lean on young relatives. There are no lines at the moment.
All the candidates' witnesses express complete satisfaction with the process and say that it is much more fluid than last year's elections, probably because everyone is now very familiar with how the voting machines and the rest of the process works. Average time to vote appears to be around a minute; the max is two minutes. Here there were lines earlier but people didn't wait long.
11:09 am: At a voting center located in a primary school (Simoncito) in the 23 de Enero neighborhood in the west of Caracas: there are approximately 1600 registered voters and 700 have voted so far. Very short line in entrance, no wait at the voting tables. No problems of any sort are signaled by the witnesses of both candidates.
11:20 AM EDT: Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles continues to imply that there are likely to be electoral abuses today:
11:15 AM EDT: An election monitor in Carabobo state reported on what she has seen so far today:
10:55 AM EDT: An election monitor in Miranda reported:
10:30 AM EDT: Although there is much mention in press coverage that the Maduro campaign has an unfair advantage due to state media, Venezuelan state-run TV channels only have about a 6 percent audience. Election monitors also report that some state TV channels have broadcast Capriles campaign ads as well.
10:16 AM EDT: At 8:43 am at Jardin de Infancia National General Juan Bautista Arismendi, an election monitor reported:
At 9:27 am: At Basica Nacional Josefina de Acosta, Parroquia San Francisco:
At 9:56 am:
9:53 AM EDT: An election monitor reported at 8:30 am EDT:
We are in Ciudad Caribia, a new, experimental "model city" which began to be built in 2005. It mainly houses people who lost their homes in mudslides, flooding and other natural disasters. It is designed as a satellite city with many of the inhabitants working in Caracas or La Guaira, a city on the coast. Apartments were sold to the families at the cost of production; the families have received low-interest loans from the government. The voting center we're visiting is located in the Samuel Robinson Bolivarian Basic School. It has two voting tables for 650 registered voters.
At one of the voting tables 66 people had voted, out of 320. At the other, 76 had voted out of a total of 323. We're told that, compared to the elections of October 7, this is a rather low turnout for the early morning, but it could be the result of a water outage that has just taken place.
In the second voting center - at the nearby Gual de España Simoncito (nursery school), there are a total of 906 voters. At one table, 94 out of 498 have voted (a similar rate of turnout to the previous voting center). Unlike the first voting center there are short lines here where people wait a max of 10 min.
At each voting table there are witnesses for both of the main candidates. They all tell us that there have been no problems whatsoever. In contrast, last October they had had some problems of people - mainly the elderly and/or people with little education - accidentally voting blank. This time there have been no such incidents.
Also, I note that the carton structure around the polling booths is significantly higher than in last year's elections. Now voters are almost completely hidden; at most you can see the tops of their heads.
The coordinator of one of the voting centers tells me she moved to the new city soon after a mudslide destroyed her home. This seems to be the case for many of the residents here.
9:42 AM EDT: As of 8:49 am, an election monitor reported:
Just arrived at Unidad Educativa Juan German Roscio in Acevedo, Miranda Dept. 4792 voters are registered here.
Voters were lining up here beginning at 4:00 a.m. Although there were problems with two of nine stations, everyone could vote by 6:10 am.
Voting is going very smoothly here. Lines are small, orderly and moving quickly.
There is a nice atmosphere here with vendors outside selling refreshments. Both party representatives confirm that voting has been going well so far.
9:17 AM EDT: An election monitor reports that in Ciudad Tavacare, “lines started at 3:30 am, with polls opening at 6:15 am. Quick and calm procession of voters, approximately 60 seconds per person from start of registration to pinky inking.”
9:06 AM EDT: An election monitor describes the opening of a voting center at 6 a.m. in Maracaibo, Zulia at the Centro Educativo Presbítero Lisandro Puche grammar school, and how the voting process works:
8:27 AM EDT: Some U.S. and U.K. media coverage presenting context for today’s elections paints an overly negative image of Venezuela’s economy, despite that Venezuela had 5.6 percent economic growth in 2012, has a low foreign debt burden and real, inflation-adjusted per person income that has grown by 2.5 percent annually since 2004, among other indicators.
Bloomberg’s article “Chavez Heir Maduro Would Inherit Venezuela Economic Woes” begins: “Nicolas Maduro is counting on a wave of sympathy for late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to win election on April 14. Should he succeed, he’ll be on his own as he confronts accelerating inflation, shortages of consumer goods and weakening growth.”
USA Today: “Chávez was a dazzling figure to his supporters — often seen as the man who seized wealth and claimed it was for the poor. Because of his popularity, he's not often blamed for the country's slide into economic chaos.”
Los Angeles Times: "His behavior has eroded some of that goodwill he inherited from Chavez, but so has the deterioration of the economy, the widespread discontent with increasing shortages of foodstuffs, and rising insecurity. It's all playing into the hands of Capriles," Bagley said.
Inter Press Service: “Venezuela’s economic challenges, more than the uncertainty over who will succeed late president Hugo Chávez, could threaten the oil diplomacy he practiced in the region.”
Reuters: “Anticipating a probable loss, some in the opposition are consoling themselves that Capriles would not inherit what they see as the complicated mess that Venezuela's economy and society present to the winner of Sunday's election.”
Also from Reuters: “For his part, Capriles has described Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver, as a faint echo of Chavez and a political novice without a coherent plan to address problems such as rampant violent crime, high inflation and a slowing economy.”
Again, Venezuela’s economy grew 5.6 percent last year, and 4.2 percent in 2011. But as we have pointed out in response to recent NPR coverage, inflation does not measure living standards – it is real income, adjusted for inflation, that measures living standards. The income of Venezuela’s poor has grown faster than inflation, while unemployment was reduced from 14.5 percent when Chávez took office to 8 percent in 2012.
7:58 AM EDT: An election monitor from the National Lawyers Guild witnessed the installation of a new voting center in Caracas on Friday:
7:26 AM EDT: The Americas Blog is live-blogging Venezuela’s presidential elections today, in which millions of voters will choose between Nicolás Maduro - the current interim president of Venezuela and Chávez’s former Vice President - and opposition challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski, who is governor of the state of Miranda. We’ll be providing updates here throughout the day.
We’re in touch with various people monitoring the electoral process in different parts of the country, as well as journalists. And we’ll be tracking media coverage throughout the day, and also statements from the political campaigns, UNASUR monitors, and other sources.
Today’s presidential elections will be the first not to include Chávez on the ballot since 1998. Recent polls by pollster Datanalisis have shown Maduro with a 10 - 14 point lead over Capriles. This is a similar margin to the advance polling – and later the actual 11 point electoral victory – that Chávez had over Capriles in the October 2012 elections (which we also live blogged).
The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE – Venezuela’s electoral authority) has invited some 150 international electoral monitors to observe the electoral systems and Sunday’s voting and electoral procedures. These include “electoral experts, parliamentarians, representatives of political organizations, trade unions, journalists and academics,” including former president Álvaro Colom of Guatemala, and delegates from UNASUR, MERCOSUR, the Carter Center, the Unión Interamericana de Organismos Electorales (UNIORE) and others. As in October, we will receive real time updates from several such election “acompañantes” – as well as from other contacts who will be unofficially monitoring the electoral process - through the end of Sunday, which we will post here.
Former president and Carter Center founder Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world” among “the 92 elections that we've monitored,” and observers from the E.U. and the OAS have praised other recent Venezuelan elections as free and fair. But despite such repeated international affirmation of the integrity of Venezuela’s electoral system, and the presence of 150 informal observers, there are worrying signs that the opposition may not recognize the results if Capriles is not declared the winner. Capriles’ campaign issued a statement earlier this week explaining that Capriles would not sign a declaration that he would recognize the electoral results, but rather issued his own statement vowing to respect “the Constitution and the laws…for my law is the expression of the people.”
In the statement, Capriles also explained,"This little group of enchufados [connected, or plugged-in ones] intend for us to stay idle. I'm not the same as on October 7; I tolerated a lot of abuse; I am going to defend the vote of the people; if they think we're idiots they will be disappointed."
In remarks to election acompañantes on Friday, campaign spokespersons said that the acompañantes’ "presence amongst us is very important to ensure free, fair and transparent elections,” and that they also will honor the “will of the people” on Sunday.
The Capriles campaign has also claimed that some polls show a rapidly shrinking poll gap between the two candidates, but such claims do not appear to have been taken too seriously by international media.
For his part, Maduro has declared that he will recognize the results.
On the issues, in a sign of how deeply Chávez and the political and social movements that backed him have transformed the political landscape, Capriles has been campaigning with promises to “improve, expand and de-politicize” (as Reuters put it) government programs that provide free services to the poor. In response to a recent Maduro campaign pledge to greatly increase the minimum wage this year in three increments, Capriles has said he would implement an immediate 40 percent increase if elected.
This fits into what seems to be a central Capriles campaign strategy: to divide the chavista vote by depicting Maduro as a pale imitation of Chávez while making Capriles appear a more practical option for maintaining Chávez’s achievements. These themes have also been echoed in much U.S. media coverage of the campaign.
While Capriles has said he wants to adopt an approach similar to former president of Brazil Lula da Silva’s, Lula himself stated in a recent video that “Chávez and Maduro thought the same way about the challenge facing Venezuela, in defense of the poorest,” and that Maduro would continue Chávez’s goal of ending Venezuela’s “resource course” by expanding agriculture and industrialization.
One notable campaign difference is that Capriles has said he would discontinue subsidized oil shipments to Cuba. It is unclear how such a policy shift would affect medical services in Venezuela, however, since Cuba provides doctors to Venezuela in exchange.