Chavez Rival Maintains Lead in Poll Ahead of Oct. 7 Election

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski maintained his lead over President Hugo Chavez in the latest survey from Consultores 21, a Caracas- based polling company, less than three weeks before elections.

Capriles had 48.1 percent against 46.2 percent for Chavez in a poll taken at the end of August, Consultores 21 President Luis Christiansen said yesterday at a conference hosted by the Council of the Americas in New York. The survey of 1,000 people was taken in the last two weeks of August had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points, Christiansen said.

Chavez, who is seeking to extend nearly 14 years in power with another six-year term, is facing his toughest electoral fight yet after his opponents buried their differences and unified behind a single candidate. Pollsters are divided on who has the advantage in the race.

“If we were to make a linear projection for the election, it would be that Capriles will maintain an advantage of 2.5 percent over Chavez,” he said.

Other polls favor Chavez by a wider margin. Chavez had 46.8 percent support compared with 34.2 percent for Capriles, according to a Datanalisis poll of 1,288 people taken between July 16 and Aug. 9.

The former paratrooper, who has undergone three operations since June 2011 to remove two tumors from his pelvic area, has managed to dispel doubts that he wouldn’t be fit enough to contest the elections, Christiansen said. That doesn’t mean that the issue of his cancer has completely disappeared, he said.

‘Physical Capacity’

“In Chavez’s style of campaigning it’s been very clear that he has a number of limitations in terms of the intensity and physical capacity to move around the country,” he said.

While Chavez has high levels of loyalty among supporters, it doesn’t extend to his ministers, Christiansen said. If his followers are concerned he won’t be able to assume his duties after the elections, some voters may choose to abstain, he said.

Chavez, 58, increased government spending by 30 percent this year and is promoting social programs for the elderly and children in extreme poverty. The surge in spending and a 17.6 percent expansion in the construction industry in the second quarter helped the economy grow 5.4 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier.

Capriles, a 40-year-old former governor of Miranda state, has visited more than 250 towns across the country and is promising to maintain some of Chavez’s popular social programs while dismantling economic policies such as currency and price controls in his bid to unseat him.

Debt Impact

An opposition win would bolster debt as Capriles unwinds economic policies such as the nationalization of key sectors of the economy, Alejandro Grisanti, Latin America economist at Barclays Plc, said at the same conference. A re-election of Chavez’s wouldn’t cause bonds to plunge because a victory is already priced in, he said.

“A victory by Henrique Capriles would produce a very strong Venezuelan bond rally that would allow the country in the future to sell debt at substantially lower yields than it can today,” he said.

The yield on the benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 rose was unchanged at 11.07 percent at 9:23 a.m. Caracas time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bond’s price fell 0.05 cents to 86.7 cents on the dollar.

The extra yield investors demand to own Venezuelan government dollar bonds instead of U.S. Treasuries fell one basis point to 975 basis points, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co indexes.

Venezuelan bonds have returned 39.8 percent in the past 12 months, the second-highest in emerging markets after Ivory Coast, according to JPMorgan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Drew Benson in New York at abenson9@bloomberg.net; Charlie Devereux in Caracas at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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