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Some Violence and Media Bias as Campaigning Begins for Venezuela’s Presidential Elections

Mérida, July 11th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – After the first week of electoral campaigning for the 7 October presidential elections, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has reported some media bias in relation to the campaigns. The national assembly has condemned two acts of violence by the opposition, and President Hugo Chavez has reported that his health is no impediment to his campaign.

Abiding by campaign rules and balance in media electoral publicity

CNE president Tibisay Lucena gave her first report on the electoral campaigns, after they were formally allowed from 1 July.  She pointed to some abnormalities, but said that “in general the electoral campaigning has started off well”.

 “Both [opposition station] Globovision and [state station] VTV have promoted a candidate in a way that we could count it as their own publicity, and so have some of the print media,” she said, explaining that media can’t promote electoral campaigns on their own, only through third parties who pay for the air time.

Also, “both campaigns have used elements that aren’t allowed [in electoral publicity] such as the appearance of children and teenagers in it,” she said.

She said that in the first week of campaigning opposition candidate Henrique Capriles appeared more often on Globovision and Meridiano (a sports channel), while socialist candidate Hugo Chavez appeared more often on VTV and the community station TVES.

Of the 227 television advertisements, those supporting Chavez accounted for 54.2% (118 adverts) while those supporting Capriles accounted for 45.8% (109 adverts).  The CNE also monitors, but doesn’t penalise, the appearance of candidates in information and opinion items, with Capriles’ electoral campaign content appearing in 38.3% and Chavez in 17.6%, across all channels.

She said that in terms of time given by television news programs to each candidate, Capriles received 62% on Globovision, 25% on VTV, 9% on Venevision, and 4% on Televen, while Chavez received 86% on VTV, 8% on Globovision, 3% on Televen, and 1% on Venevision.

Globovision transmitted 50.7% of Capriles’ campaign actions, and 13.3% of Chavez’s, while VTV transmitted 23% of Capriles’ campaigning and 20% of Chavez’s.

Opposition proposes electoral “agreement”

On Monday, the opposition campaign coordinator, Leopold Lopez, presented an “agreement for balance and electoral fairness” to the CNE, saying that it sought to “prevent electoral advantage during the campaign”.

In the agreement, “candidates commit to accept the results as long as they are a product of a transparent electoral process which reflects the will of the voters... the current president commits to not using, until the 8 October 2012, radio or television channels to promote himself, he won’t use public funds nor disguised propaganda”.

The agreement did not contain a similar condition for Capriles, whose family owns the Capriles Chain of magazines and newspapers, including Ultimas Noticias, one of the highest circulating national papers. Lucena had also explained on 3 July that special presidential broadcasts are not considered political propaganda as they are used to inform the public about the progress of the current government.

Lopez told the press, “We haven’t come looking for conflict, but rather understanding... we want a transparent process that is peaceful and democratic... we don’t have any doubt that Henrique Capriles will win the elections on the day”.

All poll companies, both private and public, have Chavez with at least a 20% lead over Capriles. The most recent poll, by opposition aligned Hinterlaces, found that between 16 and 24 June this year Chavez had 52% support, while Capriles had 31%. The public poll company GIS XXI found that between 28 May and 5 June, 57.8% of voters intended to vote for Chavez, while 23% would vote for Capriles, a difference of 34%. In previous elections GIS XXI has been the poll agency to most accurately predict election outcomes.

While the CNE has said it will respond soon to Lopez’s proposal, and the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has so far not responded, Chavez warned last month that the opposition has been systematically “attacking” the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the national army in order to “discredit the [electoral] system” and not accept the results come 7 October.

Chavez has publically stated on several occasions that he would respect the results of the presidential elections.

Further, Lucena made statements regarding the need for “peace” during campaigning, in reaction to events on Saturday when firearms were seized from Capriles’ supporters rallying for him in the pro-Chavez barrio of La Vega, Caracas.  His supporters also committed aggressive acts towards PSUV street campaigners in Maturin, Monagas state on Sunday, leaving ten people in hospital with injuries.

Chavez’s health and his campaign

During a press conference on Monday Chavez said his health won’t be a limiting factor on his electoral campaign. Responding to a private media journalist’s question, he said, “Every day I feel in better physical condition. I strongly believe that this expression of ‘physical limitation’ that you used isn’t going to be a factor in this campaign”.

He said that he was gradually getting over the medical treatment he was subject to in order to treat his cancer, diagnosed last year. “I have a lot of faith that I’ll continue to recover, don’t be surprised if you see me throwing a ball soon in a baseball match”.

Tomorrow Chavez will attend a large campaign march in Anzoategui state, and on Saturday he will attend one in Barquisimeto. He said his campaign will focus on the issues of crime and poverty.

“There are millions of Venezuelans who have reasons to trust me as a person and believe in this project [of Bolivarian socialism]... we have here the right conditions to accelerate political, social, and economic change,” he said.

“The revolutionary hurricane begins now... we’ll wage a general offensive until 7 October,” he concluded.

Published on Jul 12th 2012 at 8.18pm