This Sunday, Venezuelans voters will go to the polls one more time to elect 23 governors and 260 state representatives. For the opposition’s Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Coalition for Democratic Unity—MUD), the election is an opportunity to maintain its local bulwarks; for Chávez’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), it is a chance to consolidate the victory achieved on October 7 when Chávez won the presidential elections in all but two states.
Last week, pollster Hinterlaces predicted PSUV victories in eight states, including Miranda and Carabobo—currently governed by the opposition. Poll results indicate that former Vice President Elías Jaua could obtain 48 percent of the votes in Miranda, and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles could obtain 44 percent. The poll predicts similar results in Carabobo, where PSUV candidate Francisco Ameliach is expected to win 54 percent versus 36 percent of the votes for opposition governor Henrique Salas Feo.
While the candidates closed their campaigns on Thursday, Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas announced that Chávez had suffered bleeding and complications after a six-hour cancer operation he had on Tuesday in Cuba. “The patient is in a progressive and favorable recovery of normal vital signs,” he added, while asking Venezuelans to vote out of “love” and to pray for the president’s recovery. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles criticized PSUV’s “electoral use” of Chávez’s illness, and demanded that the president’s health be addressed separately because it has nothing to do with Sunday’s election.
Amid questions surrounding the president’s health, AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini highlighted six main points to watch in the news after Chávez named Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro his successor on December 8, ranging from currency devaluation to the effect a leadership transition could have on foreign relations.