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Poll Reveals Majority of Venezuelans View Maduro Positively; Carter Center Recommends Electoral Reform

Mérida, 4th July 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – After being elected president with 50.6% of the vote in April, now 55.9% of Venezuelans support Nicolas Maduro, according to a survey from pollster International Consulting Services (ICS).

The increase in support for the president is attributed to direct communication with the electorate, such as Maduro's “street government” initiative, according to ICS director, Lorenzo Martinez.

“This result is evidence somewhat that the Maduro government... has had a positive impact on the perception of the people... the political, social and economic landscape is improving,” Martinez told state news agency AVN, following the publication of the results yesterday.

However, when asked how they viewed Maduro's management skills, a slightly higher figure- 56.2% of participants described the president's performance as “excellent” “fair” or “good”.

The 1,600 Venezuelans surveyed by the ICS between 15 to 26 June also expressed a favourable view of the economy and security, according to Martinez.

53.4% of participants stated that they feel the economy is improving, while 21.2% stated it has worsened. 24.8% said that the economy hasn't changed since Maduro took office, while 0.6% didn't know, or didn't answer.

Two weeks before the 14 April elections, an ICS poll estimated that Maduro could command 56.9% of the vote, while his closest rival Capriles had 41.1%. Maduro won the election with just 50.6%, while Capriles received 49.1% of the vote.

Policies with meat on the bone?

As well as citing the “street government”, Martinez told AVN the results indicate that government initiatives to counter speculation and crack down on public sector corruption, along with efforts to enforce price controls have contributed to a positive outlook. According to Martinez, people can “see solutions to their specific problems”.

Last month, the head of the Institute for the Defence of People in Access to Goods and Services (Indepabis) Eduardo Saman announced a crackdown on price speculation and retailers that fail to adhere to price controls. Since then, Saman has also announced that Indepabis has launched a nationwide initiative to put the price of meat “back on track”. The minister for trade, Alejandro Fleming has announced he held a series of meetings with a number of major retailers, along with the National Association of Supermarkets to encourage greater cooperation between the private sector and Indepabis. On the same day that the ICS results were released, an Indepabis spokesperson announced that 20 butchers in Lara state had been penalised for not complying with price controls.

“We have audited, we found these irregularities and these establishments have been punished,” the Indepabis regional coordinator for Lara, Valentina Querales stated yesterday afternoon. Since the initiative was launched, the head of Indepabis in Carabobo state Luis Vilchez has stated that 32 audits have been carried out in his state, resulting in penalties being applied to seven businesses.

Another government initiative that Martinez said received some positive feedback from participants  was the 'Safe Homeland' anti-crime program.

In its survey, the ICS also asked participants, “do you think that the presence of security forces in the streets has increased or decreased?” 70.7% reported an increase. First introduced in Caracas, under Safe Homeland soldiers have been deployed alongside police in some of the country's most crime ridden areas. On Thursday, the interior minister Rodríguez Torres announced that next week he will meet with churches to discuss ways that religious institutions can contribute to the initiative.

Carter Center Releases Preliminary Report

While the ICS results give an indication of Maduro's post election performance according to Martinez, yesterday the U.S. based Carter Center also published its preliminary report on the 14 April presidential elections.

According to a press release from the Carter Center, “[t]he report finds that the Venezuelan population, and the political parties and candidates in general, have demonstrated confidence in the performance and integrity of the automated touch-screen voting machines in accurately counting the votes cast on April 14.”

“There is not agreement, however, about the quality of the voting conditions and whether every registered voter is able to vote one time, and only one time. In addition, the report finds a series of inequities in campaign conditions in terms of both access to financial resources and access to the media, which diminish the competitiveness of elections, particularly in a legal framework that permits indefinite reelection[sic] of public officials,” the release states.

Other Highlights

The report also claims that “use of government resources for electoral advantage” was an issue during the electoral campaign.

“[W]hile campaign events were generally held without problems, Venezuelan NGOs documented the use of public vehicles and public buildings for campaign activities and the participation of public officials in campaign activities, contrary to Venezuelan laws,” the report states.

The Carter Center report also assessed the candidate's access to television, finding that state broadcaster VTV favoured Maduro while Globovision favoured opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

“A Carter Center television monitoring exercise from March 28-April 16 showed that ...VTV broadcast more electoral coverage (excluding paid campaign ads) than the three largest private television stations combined,” the report states.

On private airwaves, however, the Carter Center found that Capriles received more coverage.

“In the private television stations, Capriles received nearly three-quarters of the coverage, though two of those stations provided an equilibrium between the two candidates while news channel Globovisión, which provided by far the most electoral coverage, devoted most of it to Capriles,” the report reads.

Overall, the report indicates that Maduro received more coverage than Capriles on television; with 57% compared to Capriles' 34%. The remaining 9% is attributed by the Carter Center to the National Electoral Council (CNE).

The report also describes the “difference in tone of coverage” as “striking”.

“Maduro received 91 percent positive coverage in state media, but only 28 percent positive coverage in private media; Capriles received zero percent positive coverage in state media, and 60% positive coverage in the private media,” the report states.

The Carter Center also states that Maduro's decision to not use cadenas (special presidential announcements that broadcasters are mandated to air) “during the election campaign was seen as a positive response by the government to the opposition’s requests and complaints”, though the report records an increase in the use of cadenas after the 14 April elections.

Seven recommendations are also made to the CNE, including ensuring “greater campaign equity” and better enforcement of the “regulation of the use of state resources for political purposes”. The full list of recommendations can be viewed in the report, or in the associated press release.

Unlike the October 2012 presidential elections, this year the Carter Center did not send a “comprehensive observer mission”, instead relying on what it describes as “information and perspectives gathered from a variety of Venezuelan actors as well as the personal observations made by the Center's field office staff and election experts in Caracas during the entire series of electoral events (February 2012-June 2013) and the small accompaniment delegation that traveled[sic[ to the country at the invitation of the National Election Council (CNE) from April 12-17, 2013”.

The founder of the Carter Center, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has previously praised Venezuela's automated voting system.

“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world,” Carter stated last September.

Published on Jul 4th 2013 at 9.21pm