2012 Venezuelan presidential election
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Chávez, Blue denotes those won by Capriles.
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politics and government of
After the approval of the Amendment No. 1 of the Constitution of Venezuela in 2009, which abolished term limits; incumbent Hugo Chávez, representing the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) was able to present himself again as a candidate after his reelection in 2006. His main challenger was Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski of Miranda, representing Justice First. The candidates were backed by opposing electoral coalitions; Chávez by the Great Patriotic Pole (Gran Polo Patriótico, GPP), and Capriles by the opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD). There were four more candidates from different parties. Capriles ran an energetic campaign, and visited each of the country's states. Throughout his campaign, Capriles remained confident that he could win the election and be the country's next President. However, Chávez consistently led most established polls, generally by large margins. In the end, his popularity remained high, and went to win the election by a comfortable margin.
Chávez was elected for a fourth term as President of Venezuela with 55.07% of the popular vote, ahead of the 44.31% of Capriles. The elections showed a historically high turnout, above 80% of the electorate, in a country where voting is not mandatory. Although Chávez did not win the election with a huge landslide as he had previously done in 2006, his 11-point victory over his opponent was decisive. Capriles conceded defeat as the preliminary results were known. Chávez died only two months into his fourth term.
Since 1998 elections in Venezuela have been highly automated, and administered by a non-partisan National Electoral Council, with poll workers drafted via a lottery of registered voters. Polling places are equipped with multiple high-tech touch-screen DRE voting machines, one to a "mesa electoral", or voting "table". After the vote is cast, each machine prints out a paper ballot, or VVPAT, which is inspected by the voter and deposited in a ballot box belonging to the machine's table. The voting machines perform in a stand-alone fashion, disconnected from any network until the polls close. Voting session closure at each of the voting stations in a given polling center is determined either by the lack of further voters after the lines have emptied, or by the hour, at the discretion of the president of the voting table.
On 10 June 2012, Capriles walked to the election commission to formally register his candidacy, at the head of a march estimated in the hundreds of thousands by international media, while local polling company Hernández Hercon estimated it to between 950,000 and 1,100,000. Capriles had stepped down as Governor of Miranda in early June in order to concentrate on his campaign.
17 September, opposition candidate Yoel Acosta Chirinos withdrew from presidential election and announced support to president Chavez.
Incumbent president Hugo Chávez Frías announced he would seek re-election at a University Students' Day rally held in Caracas in November 2010. Chávez' first mandate began in 1999, and if he had served the complete 2013–19 term, he would have served 20 years as president, having won four presidential elections. In July 2011, Chávez reaffirmed his intent to run in spite of his battle with cancer.
Chávez was supported by the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP), an electoral coalition led by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV). A member of a GPP collective said to Venezuelanalysis.com that the GPP was created in 2011 to support Chávez' re-election and "formally unites 35,000 Venezuelan movements and collectives" as well as Chávez-supporting political parties.
The opposition parties were grouped in the Democratic Unity Roundtable whose candidate was selected through an open primary election held on 12 February 2012. The MUD electoral coalition consists of the parties Justice First (Movimiento Primero Justicia, PJ), Fatherland for All (Patria Para Todos, PPT), Project Venezuela (Proyecto Venezuela), and Popular Will (Voluntad Popular, VP) as the main supporters of Henrique Capriles in the primary elections of February 2012. Other parties in the coalition include A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo, UNT), Democratic Action (Acción Democrática, AD), COPEI (Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente), and Movement to Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS).
- Pablo Pérez Álvarez: governor of Zulia state, representing the A New Era party; received 30.3% of the vote.
- María Corina Machado: former Súmate president and member of the National Assembly of Venezuela representing the Miranda state since 2011; received 3.7% of the vote.
- Diego Arria: former Venezuelan representative to the United Nations (1990–91) and former governor of the defunct Federal District (1974–78); received 1.3% of the vote.
- Pablo Medina: politician and former trade union leader; received 0.5% of the vote.
Leopoldo López was barred from running following corruption charges which he denied and for which he was never tried; in 2011, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights overturned the Venezuelan government ruling and said he should be allowed to run. On 24 January, placed "in the awkward position of being able to stand for elections but not hold office", he withdrew his candidacy to support Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Candidates César Pérez Vivas (governor of Táchira state), Antonio Ledezma (mayor of the Metropolitan District of Caracas) and Eduardo Fernández (former secretary general of COPEI) withdrew from the race, saying they would support candidates with better chances of winning.
Voter list dispute
A dispute erupted over the disposition of the voter rolls, rising out of concern that opposition voters could incur reprisals. Because the names of voters who had participated in the request of the 2004 recall referendum against Chávez had been made public via the Tascón List and, according to opposition leaders, those voters were later targeted for discrimination or lost jobs, the MUD had guaranteed voter secrecy. On Tuesday 14 February, in response to "a losing mayoral candidate, who asked that the ballots be preserved for review", the Supreme Court of Venezuela ordered the military to collect the voting rolls "so that electoral authorities could use them to investigate alleged irregularities during Sunday's elections".
An attorney for the opposition said that records are to be destroyed within 48 hours by law. Violence broke out as the opposition attempted to prevent police from collecting the names of voters. One young man, Arnaldo Espinoza, was run over and killed by a police tow truck that backed up suddenly, attempting to separate people who were protecting the vehicle belonging to the vice-president of the regional office for the primary elections in the state of Aragua. Later the opposition declared all voter rolls had been destroyed.
The GlobalPost says that "housing, health and other programs have been the cornerstone" of President Chávez's tenure, who "remains very popular, largely because of the vast number of social programs he put in place, funded by Venezuela’s vast oil wealth". According to The Washington Times, Chávez said the opposition represents "the rich and the U.S. government"; as part of his campaign, he increased social spending and investments to benefit the poor, and plans to launch a satellite made in China before the elections.
According to Reuters, "Capriles defines himself as a center-left 'progressive' follower of the business-friendly but socially-conscious Brazilian economic model", although he is a member of the center-right Justice First. He has a youthful and populist style, a sports enthusiast who rides a motorbike into the slums, and has broken with the older guard of Venezuelan politicians. Although he comes from a wealthy family, he espouses helping business thrive through a free market while tackling poverty via strong state policies. In an interview with the GlobalPost, Capriles said his campaign was based on "improving education, which he sees as a long-term solution to the country's insecurity and deep poverty". In November 2011, in response to claims from Chavez that the opposition would end the Bolivarian Missions if elected, Capriles said "he would be 'mad' to end" projects like Mission Barrio Adentro, adding that "the missions belong to the people". In February 2012 Capriles insisted he would keep these programs, saying "I want to expand them, and get rid of the corruption and inefficiency that characterizes them."
In early September 2012 David De Lima, a former governor of Anzoategui, published a document he said showed secret MUD plans to implement much more neoliberal policy, if elected, than their public statements showed. De Lima said the document was a form of policy pact between some of the candidates in the MUD primary, including Capriles. On 6 September 2012 opposition legislator William Ojeda denounced these plans and the "neoliberal obsessions" of his colleagues in the MUD; he was suspended by his A New Era party the following day. Capriles said that his signature on the document was a forgery, while the MUD's economic advisor said that the MUD had "no hidden agenda", and that its plans included the "institutionalisation" of the government's Bolivarian Missions so that they would no longer be "subject to the whims of government". Nonetheless, several days later four small parties withdrew from the MUD coalition. One small coalition party claimed De Lima had offered them money to withdraw from the MUD; De Lima denied the claim. On 30 September, another opposition politician, Aldo Carmeno from the Christian-democratic party COPEI, withdrew support for Capriles, and accused Capriles of "double speak" and "tricking the Venezuelan people". Carmeno announced his support for Hugo Chávez.
The authority of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) to oversee the election was recognized by the opposition. Chávez said the fairness of the CNE should not be challenged. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted Chávez's popularity among poor Venezuelans, and that "Chávez dominates the nation's mass media, and has been spending lavishly on social programs to sway Venezuelan voters". A January poll placed Chávez's approval rating at 64 percent. In May Rafael Poleo, owner and publisher of El Nuevo País, warned in a column in his newspaper that the MUD candidacy was lagging in the polls because it "ignores that in Venezuela voting is emotional ... and that the people vote for hope", adding that "Chavismo has taken the place in the heart of the people which AD and Copei have vacated." He concluded that "going down this road, I can already tell them the outcome." Capriles criticized Chávez for expropriating private businesses and for the government's use of the state-controlled media; the Washington Times said it will be hard for Capriles to compete with Chávez's "ability to take over the airwaves of all TV and radio stations when he deems appropriate". In June Chávez said he would not engage in an election debate with Capriles, describing him as a "non-entity" he would be "ashamed" to measure himself against.
It has been reported that funds to social programs increased dramatically before the elections, with Chávez devoting 16% of Venezuela's GDP to the initiatives.
Prior to the election, Chávez received treatment for cancer in Cuba including radiation, chemotherapy, and two operations. In a Mass during Easter Week 2012, Chávez wept and asked Jesus Christ to give him life; the Associated Press says that although Chávez often praised socialism and atheism, his cancer caused him to turn to Jesus Christ for inspiration and that "... analysts say his increasing religiosity could pay election-year dividends in a country where Catholicism remains influential". He did not revealed the specifics of the type or location of his cancer, but his illness was a factor in election campaigning.
According to Reuters, some journalists sympathetic to the opposition spread information about Chávez's cancer based on claims that they have access to medical sources. Amid speculation about whether he will live through the elections, there was no clear successor. CNN stated "outlines" of a successor were seen in the appointments of two Chávez allies to top posts; Diosdado Cabello as president of the National Assembly of Venezuela and Henry Rangel Silva as minister of defense. Reuters said additional potential successors or placeholders include Chávez's two daughters and Nicolás Maduro, foreign minister. The Venezuelan constitution provides for the president to appoint vice presidents at his discretion, and for the vice president to assume power in the event of the president's death, but according to CNN, the more likely scenarios range "from a military coup to Chavez naming Cabello or Maduro vice president before he dies." CNN also says that analysts say Cuban politics have a role in the succession questions, with some Cubans supporting the president's brother, Adán Chávez; trained militia in Venezuela may also be a factor if there was a succession crisis.
From mid-April to late May 2012, Chávez was only seen in public twice, spending almost six weeks in Cuba for treatment. On 7 May, he responded to criticism that he had left Venezuela in a power vacuum, saying he would be back soon. On 22 May he took part in a live broadcast of a cabinet meeting lasting several hours. He created a new Council of State, fueling rumors that it would act as a committee to help in the event a transition of government is needed.
In February 2012 Capriles was subject to what were characterized in the press as "vicious" and "anti-semitic" attacks by state-run media sources. The Wall Street Journal said that Capriles "was vilified in a campaign in Venezuela's state-run media, which insinuated he was, among other things, a homosexual and a Zionist agent". These comments were in response to an opinion piece on the website of the state-owned Radio Nacional de Venezuela, published on 13 February 2012, and to allegations broadcast on La Hojilla relating to an alleged sexual incident in 2000. Titled "The Enemy is Zionism" the Radio Nacional opinion piece noted Capriles' Jewish ancestry and a meeting he had held with local Jewish leaders, saying: "This is our enemy, the Zionism that Capriles today represents ... Zionism, along with capitalism, are responsible for 90% of world poverty and imperialist wars." Capriles is the grandson of Jewish Holocaust survivors and a self-professed devout Catholic. The United States-based organisations Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League condemned the attacks and voiced concern to Chávez, who vowed in 2009 to punish incidents of anti-Semitism.
In early July 2012 Capriles published a document allegedly showing that the government had ordered all military personnel not to view private television networks. The publication coincided with a Capriles political ad aimed at the military; the document was alleged by state-run news agency Agencia Venezolana de Noticias to be a crude forgery, showing the document alongside the original and highlighting the changes, with Chávez himself repeating the analysis of the document on television. Based on non-classified military order 4926 from September 2011, the document had been redated to 31 July but was published several weeks before that date, still bearing the original signature of the minister of defense in September 2011, Carlos José Mata Figueroa (who had been replaced in January 2012). The document bore the original document number, and had the "not classified" stamps replaced with "confidential", but retained the original "NOCLAS" ("not classified") classification mark. The source of the document was not identified, but Chávez said that it was "nothing new that [the opposition] forges documents and invents things that never happened".
In March 2012, at a Capriles rally, a group of armed men began firing guns "in an apparent effort to break up the rally". According to news reports, five people were injured, including the son of an opposition member of the National Assembly of Venezuela. Capriles was subsequently taken safely from the scene. Journalists for TV channel Globovisión had been covering the rally; according to reporter Sasha Ackerman, both she and her cameraman were threatened by the armed men, who confiscated their equipment and footage of the shootings. A Globovisión statement the next day identified the armed men as PSUV supporters, saying "These groups wore red shirts identifying them with a political tendency. More importantly, it was an armed and organized group that fired weapons against people". Venezuela's justice minister, Tarek El Aissami, said that the attacks were perpetrated by opposition supporters "to generate this show", while some government sources said that Capriles' bodyguards "were the ones to start shooting". The state news service Agencia Venezolana de Noticias reported that a local resident said that a group of individuals arrived on motorbikes, changed from yellow shirts to red in front of her house, and began shooting.
There have also been reports of opposition supporters attacking journalists at opposition campaign events, including reporters for local public station Catatumbo Television at an event in Zulia, and reporters for VTV at events in Aragua, Tachira and Barinas. Capriles subsequently told journalists "I'm against any type of violence, no matter where it comes from."
PSUV politician Diosdado Cabello declared that Chávez was the only one who could guarantee peace. He added: "those who want fatherland will go with Chávez; those who are traitors will go with the others". He also said that if the opposition wins, it would take the measures of the IMF.
On 20 March Chávez declared he had intelligence reports about an alleged plot to assassinate Capriles, and said the government was monitoring security for Capriles, with the Director of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service meeting with Capriles' security team. Capriles responded that what the government should do is to guarantee security for all Venezuelans. Chávez said that his government "has nothing to do with" the plot, and according to Reuters, "implied that the plot came from elements in the opposition". Capriles' campaign manager said the announcement was intended to force a change in Capriles' house-by-house campaigning style. In the 2006 presidential election, Chávez similarly declared he had uncovered an assassination plot against his opponent, Manuel Rosales.
Later that same month, Chávez claimed the existence of an opposition plot to disrupt the election with violence and "attack ... the constitution, the people and institutions". Of the "list of actions" he said he was preparing in response, Chávez said he was willing to nationalise banks or companies that supported the opposition should they "[violate] the constitution and the national plan."
In April, Chávez said Capriles Radonski was behind a conspiracy plan against his government. Reiterating that he would win with at least 70% of the votes, Chávez said that he had created a civil-military command to neutralize any "destabilization plans" in the event that the opposition did not recognise the results. In reference to the events of April 2002, Chávez said that if necessary, "there would not just be the people on the streets, but the people and soldiers".
According to Reuters, "Polls are historically controversial in Venezuela", pointing out that "Venezuelan pollsters – who range from a former Chavez minister to an openly pro-opposition figure – also tend to double as political analysts, offering partisan opinions in state media or opposition-linked newspapers." In addition, it said that "As in previous elections, a proliferation of little-known public opinion firms with no discernable track record have emerged from obscurity promoting polls that appear to openly favor one candidate or the other." In June 2012 most pollsters showed Capriles behind by at least 15 percentage points, and intention to vote for Chávez slowly increasing since the end of 2011. One firm, Hinterlaces, was accused by Capriles of publishing "bogus polls". The Chavez campaign accused Datanalisis and Consultores 21 of inventing polls to support opposition plans to claim fraud in the event of defeat.
Although the poll results vary widely, most of the variation is by pollster; results from individual pollsters are quite stable over time. Of the established Venezuelan pollsters, Consultores 21 and Varianzas have consistently shown a close race, while IVAD, GIS XXI, Datanalisis and Hinterlaces have consistently given Chávez a 10 to 20-point lead.
In June the CNE required pollsters publishing polls relating to the election to register with them, and to provide details of their methodology. The list of registered pollsters is available online.
Established Venezuelan pollsters
|Pollster||Publication date||Chávez||Capriles Radonski||Source|
|Consultores 21||Mar 2012||46||45|||
|GIS XXI||May 2012||57||21|||
|GIS XXI||June 2012||57.0||23.0|||
|Consultores 21||June 2012||47.9||44.5|||
|Consultores 21||July 2012||45.9||45.8|||
|GIS XXI||August 2012||56||30|||
|Hinterlaces||16 August 2012||48||30|||
|Datanálisis||20 August 2012||46.8||34.2|||
|Consultores 21||24 August 2012||45.9||47.7|||
|IVAD||2 September 2012||50.8||32.4|||
|Hinterlaces||6 September 2012||50||32|||
|Consultores 21||19 September 2012||46.2||48.1|||
|Datanálisis||24 September 2012||47.3||37.2|||
|Hinterlaces||25 September 2012||50||34|||
|Hugo Chávez||Great Patriotic Pole||8,191,132||55.07|
|Henrique Capriles Radonski||Democratic Unity Roundtable||6,591,304||44.31|
|Reina Sequera||Workers' Power||70,567||0.47|
|Luis Reyes||Authentic Renewal Organisation||8,214||0.05|
|María Bolívar||United Democratic Party for Peace||7,378||0.04|
|Orlando Chirinos||Party for Socialism and Liberty||4,144||0.02|
|Source: National Electoral Commission|
Results by state
|States/districts won by Hugo Chávez|
|States/districts won by Henrique Capriles Radonski|
|Henrique Capriles Radonski
Source: National Electoral Council
Red font color denotes states won by President Chávez; blue denotes those won by Governor Capriles.
States where the margin of victory was under 5%:
- Miranda 0.45%
- Nueva Esparta 2.57%
- Mérida 2.64%
- Lara 3.70%
- Anzoátegui 3.92%
States where margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10%:
- Zulia 7.07%
- Amazonas 8.17%
- Bolívar 8.28%
- Carabobo 9.61%
- Argentina - Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner released a message on Twitter saying: "Hugo, today I wish to tell you that you have plowed the earth, you have sown it, you have watered it, and today you have picked up the harvest." She called the election a victory for all "South Americans and the Caribbeans."
- Bolivia - Bolivian President Evo Morales called the election result a victory for all "the nations of Latin America that fight for their sovereign dignity."
- Brazil - Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota congratulated Chavez on his victory and praised Capriles for his swift recognition of defeat.
- Cuba - Cuban President Raúl Castro released a message from the country's embassy in Mexico City stating "Your decisive victory assures the continuation of the struggle for the genuine integration of Our America" and that the election "shows the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution and its unquestionable grassroots support."
- Ecuador - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa posted a message on Twitter congratulating Chavez and declaring: "All of Latin American is with you and with our beloved Venezuela. ... Next battle: Ecuador!"
- Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a message congratulating Chavez on his re-election. In the message he also emphasized the need for Iran and Venezuela to increase cooperation.
- Nicaragua - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega congratulated Chavez, calling him "an indisputable leader that will continue leading the Latin American Revolution."
- Russia – According to the presidential press service, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Hugo Chávez in a telephone conversation with a victory at presidential elections in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and wished him further success at this state post, which bears high degree of responsibility.
- United States – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney congratulated the Venezuelan people on the high voter turnout and "peaceful elections".
- Uruguay - Uruguayan President Jose Mujica used the election the victory to urge Latin American nations for more cooperation and put aside differences.
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ignora que en Venezuela el voto es emocional (…) y que la gente vota por la esperanza". ... "el chavismo llegó al corazón del pueblo que AD y Copei, sifrinizados, habían dejado vacío" ... "Por este camino puedo desde ya decirles los resultados.
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