Opposition Confident of Victory; Public Opinion Turns against Chavez Government
Byline: Sacha Feinman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez faces voters in fewer than two months with a credible opposition candidate, who says he can overcome a double-digit lead in public-opinion polls.
One of the most respected pollsters in Venezuela, Alfredo Keller, recently released his newest survey, which concludes that Mr. Chavez enjoys 50 percent support to Manuel Rosales' 37 percent.
The lead makes the task daunting but not impossible, analysts say, because Mr. Keller's poll also found increasing dissatisfaction with the current government among potential voters.
Polls have consistently shown that the Chavez government gets poor marks on security, as the country's violent-crime rate has steadily increased during Mr. Chavez's seven years in power.
"Rosales is a very intuitional person; he doesn't follow polls or politics," said Ivo Hernandez, a professor of political science at Venezuela's Simon Bolivar University.
"I think that Rosales absolutely has a chance to carry the elections. People are really scared of what is going on here.
"Mr. Chavez is getting more and more radical, and no one wants to return to the instability of the 2002 coup. He still has about two months; in Venezuela, two months is enough for everything to change," he said.
In 2002, a military coup removed Mr. Chavez from office for 48 hours.
Mr. Rosales, the governor of the oil-rich state Zulia, held a rally in the heart of Caracas Saturday that attracted an estimated 10,000 supporters.
It was the largest gathering of opposition forces in Venezuela since an effort to recall Mr. Chavez failed in August 2004.
Mr. Rosales is running with the unified support of the country's often splintered and squabbling opposition. …