Friday, October 8, 2010

Hugo Chávez's hold on Venezuelan assembly in the balance

By Rory Carroll in Caracas
The Guardian, Thursday 23 September 2010

It looked like a 1950s TV commercial: an avuncular man in a shiny kitchen explaining to a housewife the wonders of a new fridge. "Feel the lines on it. Nice, eh? And wait till I tell you about the discount."

The price was not just a bargain, it was a socialist bargain, for this was a live broadcast from Venezuela's presidential palace, Miraflores, and Hugo Chávez was selling more than just a fridge. The kitchen was a set to launch a new social campaign, "My well-equipped house", on the eve of an election that could shape the fate of Chávez's socialist revolution.

The president is not on the ballot but on Sunday voters will decide whether to maintain or loosen his grip over the national assembly, a constitutionally powerful body that has been dominated by "chavistas" since 2005. Polls suggest a close fight with a resurgent opposition that boycotted elections last time round.

"Both sides are evenly balanced," said Luis Vicente Leon, director of polling firm Datanalisis. "The country is divided into two practically equal parts." Recent polls have given a slight edge to Chávez's PSUV party.

After 12 years in power, the leftist leader remains popular with many of the poor, but his government is facing bad news: recession, high inflation, creaking public services, a scandal over rotting food, and horrific crime rates that have made Caracas a murder capital.

Analysts say the election will hinge on the government's formidable "red machine" overcoming voter discontent and mobilising its base through the use of oil revenues, control of state institutions and Chávez's charisma. CONTINUE READING

Multimedia piece: Hugo Chávez Woos Discontented Voters

No comments: