Incumbent Chavez leads Venezuela presidential pre-election polls

03 October 2012 00:15  [Source: ICIS news]

MEDELLIN, Colombia (ICIS)--Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, seeking a new six-year term, goes into the 7 October presidential election with a 10 point lead over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, according to a final poll.

The poll by opinion firm Datanalisis had Chavez leading Capriles by 49% to 39%, with 11% of those polled saying they were undecided.

Despite Chavez’s lead, the contest has become Venezuela’s most closely fought election battle for over a decade.

Chavez, who has held the nation's top job since 1999, has promised to deepen his socialist projects, which are predominantly financed by the country’s oil wealth and are aimed at helping Venezuela’s poor.

A US-based consultant said that further socialist reforms would weigh heavily on the general investment climate and by extension the country’s energy sector.

“If your goal is steady growth, you will hardly get there by over-regulating,” he said.

Critics of Chavez point to state-oil company PDVSA’s lack of infrastructure, high debt burden, an increasing reliance on imports and a recent string of deadly accidents.

According to the consultant, Pequiven, the petrochemical arm of PDVSA, has also suffered as a result of underinvestment.

“Reigning conditions have debilitated Venezuela’s petrochemical industry,” he added.

Capriles, of the centre-right First Justice Party, has promised a more pro-business approach to running the economy.

He has said that PDVSA would be "de-politicised", and he would begin with the replacement of PDVSA head and oil minister Rafael Ramirez.

“The wide-spread impression is that under the current situation key positions are not always filled out with the most capable candidates but based on political affinity,” the consultant said.

Capriles has denied repeated accusations by Chavez that he plans to privatise the oil industry, and insists that PDVSA would remain in government hands if he wins.

“Private investment might help,” the consultant said. “However, significant resources could be made available if the country stopped misspending money abroad and state-run enterprises were streamlined.”

The winner of Sunday’s election will assume office in February.

By: Simon West

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