Venezuela’s Chavez Would Win Recall Referendum, Poll Says

According to a new poll, opponents of President Chavez would be unable to recall him if a referendum is held. 35% support him, 31% oppose him, and 34% remain neutral

Caracas, Venezuela. April 26, 2004 ( Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would unable to recall him if a referendum is convoked by the National Electoral Council, a new poll has revealed.

The poll conducted in early April by Alfredo Keller y Asociados indicates that in case that electoral authorities determine that the opposition managed to collect enough signatures to demand the President’s recall, and the referendum is held, they will not have enough votes to recall him.

The pollsters used a sample of 1,200 people, with a margin of error of 2.7%, determining that 35% support the Chavez government, 31% oppose it, and 34% remain neutral.

“If there is a referendum, the opposition will not be able to revoke Chavez,” said Alfredo Keller at a press conference with foreign journalists in Caracas.

Keller gives relevance to a sector of the voting population who would abstain if a referendum is held, as no viable alternative to Chavez is found. “They are the majority of the determined opposition, but they are now doubtful, scared, and especially they are voters who have lost faith in the opposition as an alternative to Chavez. Almost all of them will abstain. So being Chavez opponents, the opposition can’t really count on them,” said Keller.

While other recent polls have given Chavez between 41% and 50% of popular support, the neutral or “ni-ni” (neither one nor the other) sector presents an upward trend. The Datanalisis polling firm puts the neutral ones at 38.7%.

The pollster sees two possible scenarios: one in which the referendum is held, which would be won by Chavez, and the other in which there is no referendum. Both are negative for the opposition.

“Chavez is going to have to invent an opposition for himself,” said Keller.

According to Keller, Chavez “sees the forest” and has a long term strategy, while the opposition only “sees the trees,” and remain fixated only in ousting the President.

As it is customary when certain information benefits the government, the local commercial media, which is openly opposed to the goverment, largely ignored the Keller poll. Keller is perceived by many to be pro-opposition polling firm.

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council is calling those who signed last December to demand for recall referenda on several elected officials, and whose signatures present irregularities, to come forward and confirm their intention to request the recall. This process is known as “repair” of the signatures, and it was implemented under a polarized political atmosphere in order to avoid discarding potentially valid signatures that could decide whether the recall referenda should be held.

The process of repair of the signatures is scheduled to be held May 27 until May 31st. However, an internal battle within the Supreme Tribunal for Justice (Venezuela’s Supreme Court) threatens to delay the process. Likewise, several political parties of the opposition have not made a decision on their participation in the repair process as they argue that all those suspected signatures should be accepted and the recall convoked immediately.

Recall referenda is a new constitutional right Venezuelans won thanks to the new Constitution drafted by an elected Constituency Assembly during Hugo Chavez’s first year in office. The referendum was an idea proposed by Chavez to the Assembly, and it was supported by the majority.

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