Mérida, 11th March 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Socialist candidate Nicolas Maduro and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles today registered for Venezuela’s upcoming presidential elections, following Hugo Chavez’s death last week.
The first political attacks have already been launched, after Capriles made stinging accusations against Maduro and several public figures on Sunday night.
The preparations for the election come at a sensitive time for Venezuelans, with thousands still queuing outside the Venezuelan Military Academy in Caracas to pass by Chavez’s body and pay their respects.
Pundits consider a Maduro win likely, and a poll last month gave him a 14% lead over his right-wing rival. A total of six candidates have registered to stand.
Nicolas Maduro, who is currently interim president and Chavez’s chosen political successor, registered his candidacy at midday today.
He up turned to the National Electoral Council (CNE) headquarters driving a bus, a move designed to draw attention to his origins as a bus driver and union leader.
The former vice president and foreign minister submitted Chavez’s Socialist Plan of the Nation as his manifesto, swearing to continue the Bolivarian revolution. “I’m not Chavez, I’m a son of Chavez, and all the people together are Chavez,” he declared.
He further said to supporters that Venezuela “is on course to socialism” and that a time of “freedom, democracy, dignity and independence” is coming for Venezuela, as well as “a lifetime of combat” for the ideals of Hugo Chavez.
Capriles didn’t register his candidacy in person, but rather a political aid turned up at the CNE late in the day to comply with the registration formalities.
After a day of deliberation following the opposition MUD coalition’s offer to be their candidate for the upcoming election, Capriles confirmed last night he would stand against Maduro in the presidential contest.
In a press conference Capriles announced, “I’m not going to leave the way clear Nicolas, you’re going to have to defeat me with votes and I’m going to fight for every one of those votes with these hands”.
The opposition candidate, who was defeated by Hugo Chavez by an 11% margin last October, said that he offered voters “a unified country” and drew attention to issues such as crime, inflation, and the recent monetary devaluation.
In an outburst that marked a break from his more conciliatory tone in the past, he also launched a series of accusations against Maduro, the government, and a number of public institutions.
Most seriously, Capriles accused Maduro of “lying” over Chavez’s health and taking advantage of his death for political gain.
“Who knows when the president died? You [the government] had it all planned…you were campaigning for weeks,” he said.
He continued, “For weeks you were planning on how you were going to say the situation with the president was irreversible, and on top of that now you’re using the president’s body to run a political campaign”.
Capriles did not offer evidence to back up his claims, and questions for journalists were not permitted at the press conference.
The opposition candidate, who is also governor of Miranda state, further called the head of the army’s security operation during the elections an “embarrassment”, and questioned the impartiality of the CNE and the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
Nicolas Maduro quickly responded to the comments, accusing Capriles of “throwing a dart full of hate and provocation at the people”.
“The people cannot let themselves be poisoned,” he continued. “We have to keep rising above any kind of hate”.
He rejected every accusation made by Capriles, calling them “slander” and stated that Chavez’s family reserved the right to any legal actions relating to the supposed defamation
“He [Capriles] has come out under the effect of hate and desperation, because he knows he’s going to lose the election on 14 April,” Maduro added.
Communist party backs Maduro
Also yesterday, the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) unanimously agreed to back Nicolas Maduro’s candidacy at their national conference.
Maduro, who attended the conference, emphasised his “special commitment” to the political bureau of the PCV. He also made concrete his invitation for the PCV to join the political – military leadership of the Bolivarian revolution, formed last Tuesday upon Chavez’s death.
He told the assembled PCV delegates that he welcomed “criticism and self-criticism as a Chavista and revolutionary method of constructing the nation”.
The socialist candidate also recognised the PCV’s historical role in Venezuela’s popular struggle, including being the first political party to support Chavez in his first presidential bid in 1998.
Yesterday’s move ensures that the unity between Maduro and Chavez’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the PCV is maintained. Maduro argued that this unity was fundamental to the consolidation of the Bolivarian project.
“The only way that we are all Chavez is if we are all together. All together we are Chavez, separated we are nothing, and could lose everything,” he warned.
Meanwhile PCV secretary general Oscar Figuera said, “With the help of our people and the popular and revolutionary organisations, Nicolas Maduro will be elected constitutional president on 14 April”.
The PCV also handed Maduro a list of critical observations of the Bolivarian process they argue must be acted upon in the coming period.