Mérida, 14th December 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Campaigning for Venezuela’s state elections is now officially over, with both pro-government and opposition gubernatorial candidates holding final rallies to shore up support ahead of Sunday’s vote.
With 23 state governor posts at stake, as well as 237 local legislative positions, the election has gained increased importance in the context of uncertainty generated by the health of President Hugo Chavez, who underwent an operation to remove malignant cancer cells in Havana on Tuesday.
Venezuelan vice-president Nicolas Maduro, who was recently named as Chavez’s chosen potential replacement, argued on Monday that a strong victory for pro-government candidates in the state elections is necessary “to clear the path to this country’s political stability, to continue developing the [Socialist] Plan of the Nation”.
Maduro informed the nation yesterday that Chavez’s post-operation recovery had gone from “stable to favourable,” according to the Venezuelan president’s medical team. He also reported that Chavez suffered from “unanticipated bleeding” during his six-hour operation, but that it had been quickly controlled.
State governor candidates from pro-Chavez forces, the opposition MUD coalition, as well as other parties, held final campaign events yesterday in a final push to win over support.
Both candidates and supporters of Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) emphasised the importance of a big win on Sunday in order to consolidate the Bolivarian revolution as the country’s principal political force.
Supporters also argued that victories in the state elections would be a “gift” to show support for Hugo Chavez in his time of need.
Speaking at the close of his campaign in Aragua state, PSUV gubernatorial candidate and former minister Tareck El Aissami declared to the crowd that, “I’ve come to honour this sacred commitment with President Chavez and to serve Aragua with my life because I will never betray your love for our comandante”.
“Today we want to reclaim the colour red of the revolution. The opposition shouldn’t think that we’ve given up: here no one goes back, no one surrenders; more people’s power and more Chavismo are our slogans of victory,” he said.
In the key battleground state of Miranda, the PSUV’s candidate Elias Jaua declared himself “radically Chavista” and repeated his pledge that if he wins he will re-establish the Miranda state government’s support for the Chavez’s government’s social programs or ‘missions’ in Miranda.
Former vice-president Jaua is hoping to unseat the opposition’s Henrique Capriles, who was the opposition’s candidate against Chavez in the presidential elections and is the current governor of Miranda.
“On 16 December we will give a moral lesson to [Capriles], who has used the [Miranda] state government for a personal project, an economic project, that doesn’t meet the needs of the people of Miranda,” Jaua told followers at his final campaign rally yesterday.
The PSUV’s national campaign manager, Jorge Rodriguez, today claimed that unpublished polls give the PSUV an advantage in all 23 states, the “magic number” of possible victories for the party. The PSUV currently holds 17 of Venezuela’s 23 state governments.
Oscar Figuera, the Venezuelan Communist Party’s (PCV) secretary general, called on voters to support his party’s candidates. The PCV is supporting the candidate of the PSUV in 19 states, however is fielding four of its own candidates in the remaining states.
In a press conference on Monday, Figuera advocated a more “collective leadership” over the Bolivarian process. “In the grouping of forces of the process there are options from different currents to guarantee grassroots strengthening of the revolution,” he said.
While it is likely that the PSUV will win a majority of states on Sunday, the opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) coalition are focusing on holding on to key states such as Miranda and Zulia, as well as possibly taking a couple of state governments from the PSUV where the pro-Chavez vote is divided, such as in Merida.
Some analysts consider the vote in Miranda as particularly important, as a defeat for Henrique Capriles by Elias Jaua could hurt his chances of being the opposition’s presidential candidate if fresh elections were to be called due to Chavez’s health situation.
In his final campaign rally yesterday, Capriles claimed that when he was elected Miranda governor in 2008 he “rescued” the state, and improved public services such as health and education.
“We had to run and rescue the state government because they [the PSUV] took everything. We came to construct a state that was almost destroyed,” he said.
Capriles criticised Jaua and the PSUV’s campaign, declaring “the only thing they want this Sunday is to beat me”. The opposition leader also expressed confidence in his re-election, stating, “The whole world knows what’s going to happen on Sunday”.
Meanwhile, the MUD candidate in Zulia state, current governor Pablo Perez, spent his final day of campaigning criss-crossing Zulia, handing out new pensions and other funds in a bid to shore up support, conservative daily El Universal reported.
Perez faces a strong challenge from the PSUV candidate Arias Cardenas, and Zulia, considered an opposition stronghold, may go to the PSUV.
With campaigning over, the customary ban on alcohol sales and fireworks is now in force across the country until after the election. A total of 17.421.946 people are eligible to vote.