Venezuela’s self-styled socialist experiment faces its toughest test yet this weekend in a parliamentary election held amid crippling inflation and spiralling crime that appear to have turned the tide against the late Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. Polls show the opposition stand to win a majority of seats in the country’s unicameral National Assembly but President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, has said that he would “not hand over the revolution” if the ruling party loses at the polls. Opposition candidates are leading by 25-30% in most races, despite what critics say has been a campaign skewed by government intervention on behalf of ruling party candidates, a lack of access to media and incidents of violence. “Barring some very large election fraud, the opposition will win by a wide margin. The ruling party majority is almost certain to get wiped out,” predicted Michael Henderson, an analyst with Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy.
In Caracas’s central Bolivar Square, Daniel Estevez, a 47-year-old government employee who previously supported Chávez, speaks quietly to avoid being overheard by passersby. “The opposition offers an alternative,” he says. “We’re tired of having to stand in queues with the government not resolving anything. I say we give the other guys a chance to see what they can do.”
… Those who do go to cast their vote may find the ballots confusing. In the city of Maracay two candidates named Ismael García are on the ballot, next to each other. One is the incumbent representative of the MUD opposition; the other for a new party called MIN. The parties’ logos bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. The attempt to stump voters was so blatant that electoral authorities fined the newer party.