Doubts Emerge Within Venezuelan Opposition about Capriles as Candidate

Doubts have emerged in recent days about who will be the official candidate of the Venezuelan opposition if Hugo Chavez cannot continue as president and new presidential elections are called.

By Chris Carlson
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Governor of Miranda Henrique Capriles (La Verdad)
Governor of Miranda Henrique Capriles (La Verdad)

Maracaibo, February 21st, 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Doubts have emerged in recent days about who will be the official candidate of the Venezuelan opposition if Hugo Chavez cannot continue as president and new presidential elections are called.

Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski initially seemed to be the consensus candidate among opposition sectors after having obtained more votes for the opposition than ever before in the 2012 presidential election, and losing to Hugo Chavez by less than 11 percentage points.

In recent days, however, various opposition leaders have expressed doubts about whether Capriles will be the candidate, and have called on the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) to declare who will be the official candidate of the opposition.

Yesterday, the president of the Christian democratic party COPEI, Roberto Enríquez, presented a proposal to the MUD coalition to choose a consensus candidate that all parties could support in case elections are called in the near future.

“We can’t wait until the President’s health situation unfolds and elections are called to start the debate about who will be our candidate,” said Enríquez, who insisted that the candidate be someone willing to unite all factions and begin campaigning across the country.

However, leaders of other factions of the opposition said COPEI’s proposal was too soon, and that the opposition parties needed to wait until the proper moment.

Other opposition leaders and pundits have voiced criticisms of Capriles in recent days, and have cast doubt on whether he should be the official candidate.

“I don’t know who the candidate will be, but there is no reason to think it will be Capriles,” said opposition pundit Rafael Poleo on Tuesday.

Poleo said that various parties within the opposition coalition have been insulted by Capriles for taking exclusive credit for the votes he received in last October’s elections.

“To say that the six million votes that he got in October are all his is an immature and unfair act that is an insult to the other parties that supported him,” he said.

Poleo claims that Capriles has distanced himself from other parties within the opposition and has pushed away other leaders such as Leopoldo López.

“The fact that Capriles thinks he is the candidate of the opposition is just childish. He wants to be the king of the mountain, but we aren’t going to get anywhere that way. He is young and inexperienced,” Poleo said.

Opposition legislator Pedro Fernández also criticized a lack of unity within the opposition and a tendency for each party within the coalition to be looking out for its own interests.

“This goes for all political factions, not just [Capriles’ party] Primero Justicia. We have to put the interests of Venezuela first, and not just try to gain more power for one party,” he said.

Fernández listed several possibilities for who the opposition candidate could be, including MUD’s Executive Secretary Ramón Aveledo, Governor of Lara, Henri Falcón, or Henrique Capriles.

“The most important thing is for [the candidate] to be able to unite all Venezuelans. I’m not sure if Capriles can do that. We will have to analyze that,” he said.

Various opposition voices have criticized the MUD coalition for being controlled by an elite group, and not making decisions democratically, causing some leaders to break ranks with the opposition.

Former presidential primaries candidate Diego Arria has recently distanced himself from the organization, and claimed last week that the coalition is really controlled by only three or four parties.

“Things should not be decided by one person, or by an elite group, but by everyone. We cannot participate in elections again with the same rules. There has to be transparency in the decisions we are taking or people will not mobilize,” said Arria on Monday.

Arria has criticized Capriles and others among the opposition for “legitimizing” the Chavez government, which he claims is not a legitimate government due to Chavez not being sworn in last January 10th.

The Venezuelan constitution calls for new elections to be held within 30 days in the event that the president resigns or is declared permanently absent due to being physically or mentally unable to continue in office.

After Chavez designated Vice President Nicolás Maduro as his successor in December, there has been little doubt among pro-Chavez sectors who their candidate will be in the event of new elections.

A survey by private pollster Hinterlaces earlier this showed that Maduro would defeat Capriles by a margin of 14 points in the event an election is held in the coming months. The opposition, however, claims Hinterlaces is biased in favor of the government.

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