Election 2012: Ailing Venezuelan President Registers Candidacy
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez registered his candidacy to run for re-election as concerns continue behind the scenes over what would happen if he is incapacitated before or after the election.
IHS Global Insight Perspective
Hugo Chávez was joined by a delegation of political allies, family and supporters yesterday (11 June) in Caracas as he registered his bid to run for re-election as president of Venezuela in October.
Chávez's true enemy is not Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition candidate, but his own health. His registration has made it plain to see that he has no clear successors lined up.
Chávez's assurances over his health are not likely to be enough to dispel concerns over what would happen in the event that he is incapacitated before or after the election. Meanwhile, the possibility that the armed forces could become a key arbitrator should Chavez become incapacitated continues to increase.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez registered his presidential candidacy for the 2012–2019 constitutional term yesterday (11 June) at the National Electoral Council (CNE), the electoral authority, located in downtown Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. Chavez—wearing a jacket with the Venezuelan flag and his trademark red beret, and cheered by thousands of supporters—led a march from the presidential palace to the CNE in a pickup truck accompanied by Elias Jaua, the vice-president, Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly, Jorge Rodriguez, the head of his electoral campaign, Adan Chávez, his brother and governor of the western Barinas States and other members of his family. Thousands of civil servants were reported to have attended the march that took place on a day declared as holiday for the public sector. Chávez registered his candidacy as a representative of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and other small parties of the Patriotic Pole alliance. With his face slightly swollen but certainly managing to walk without much effort, Chavez was received by the head of the CNE Tibisay Lucena, like Chávez also affected by cancer, and by other rectors of the electoral authority. Chavez pledged to recognise the results of the 7 October elections and delivered a speech downplaying claims over his state of health and a number of diagnoses spread over the internet claiming that his days are numbered. Opposition presidential hopeful Henrique Capriles Radonski registered his candidacy on Sunday at the CNE, following a 10-km march in which he was accompanied by thousands of supporters. Capriles led the massive rally through the streets of Caracas wearing a claret-coloured shirt of the national football team, a symbol of unity and hope for Venezuelans. Capriles’s registration came as no surprise as he had been selected by the Table for Democratic Unity (MUD), a coalition of opposition parties, to run on a single, unified platform against Chávez in the forthcoming presidential election. The size of Capriles' rally, which had a similar number of supporters to the Chavez rally, has renewed hope among the opposition that Capriles could defeat Chávez in the election, despite so far not performing well in opinion polls.
Hugo Chavez at the rally in Caracas on 11 June 2012
Outlook and Implications
Chávez is looking to secure re-election to extend his 13-year period in charge of the country until 2019, if his health allows him. His true enemy is not Capriles or the US, as claimed by government rhetoric, but his own health. Given the proximity of the CNE to the presidential palace the fact that he did not walk all the way, at a time when his capacity to do so was being tested, is a further sign that his state of health is still delicate and that he remains vulnerable. This contrasted with his remarks on Saturday (9 June) when he said he "felt fit" following his recent radiotherapy treatment in Cuba and is further evidence that he still has not overcome the cancer that was first announced in June 2011. More importantly, it contrasts with Capriles who, after walking 10 km to register his candidacy, managed to project an image of a young, fresh and energetic alternative that could start to pick up in the polls in the following months. Chávez's assurances over his health are not likely to be enough to dispel concerns over what would happen in the event that he becomes incapacitated before or after the election. This is especially relevant after Chávez's registration as a candidate, since none of the rumoured eventual successors to Chavez—Diosdado Cabello, Nicolas Maduro, Elias Jaua and Adan Chávez, all currently holding official posts—can now legally run for election should Chávez be prevented from doing so by his illness. While electoral law allows an alternative candidate to be appointed in the event of incapacitation up to one week before the election, it also requires any candidate to resign his post in office six months before. This highlights that there are no clear successors to Chávez, who has remained at all times the only possible candidate of the ruling PSUV and underlines his perception that he is the only person who can secure the election against Capriles, and who can also keep the different factions of his ruling PSUV unified. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the possibility that the armed forces could become a key arbitrator should Chavez become incapacitated and political stability be at risk, continues to increase.
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