Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez remain buoyant, even though the opposition is tipped to make gains in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
Campaigning has ended ahead of the vote. The President’s popularity is down on the highs of previous years, but backing for his party could be boosted by policies aimed at improving health and life for people on low incomes.
Chavez himself has been on characteristic form.
“(The 2012 campaign) is mine,” he said, referring to the presidential race in two years’ time in which he’s implicated the US as the enemy. “I’m here supporting my candidates, our candidates. I’m warming up our engines because in December 2012, no matter who the ‘Yankees’ put over there in the opposition camp, we are going to rip them to shreds.”
In the polls the Socialists are a couple of percentage points ahead of a newly-united opposition group, Democratic Unity. It’s highlighting voter discontent with the president’s authoritarian style, the recession and the country’s high murder rate.
“The communists who are in the government have never represented the future, they are obsessed with destroying the past and in that obsession with the past they have turned their back on the future,” said opposition congressional candidate Maria Corina Machado.
During his 12 years in power, Chavez has used election victories to step up nationalisations and other socialist reforms. Opposition gains this time are not expected to be enough to overturn his parliamentary majority.