Chavez Said to Lead Capriles by 13 Points in Venezuelan Poll

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is leading his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski by 13 percentage points in a poll measuring support for the socialist leader’s re-election bid almost six months before the vote, according to two people who have seen the unpublished poll by Datanalisis.

The result of the survey taken this month was presented by Datanalisis President Luis Vicente Leon at an event yesterday for business executives in Caracas, according to the two people, one of whom attended the event and the other, a member of Capriles’s party, who saw a copy of the poll.

Chavez, who is looking to extend his 13-year rule in the October vote until 2019, had 44 percent support among those surveyed compared with 31 percent for Capriles, said both people. Another 25 percent were undecided, they said, declining to give their names because the results have not been made public. The date the survey was taken, its sample size and the margin of error was unknown, they added.

Leon declined to comment on the poll when contacted by Bloomberg, saying that he’d present its results at a March 29 event. Venezuelan polls aren’t normally published in public forums.

Chavez is facing his toughest election to date as his battle against an undisclosed type of cancer limits his ability to campaign for votes. The 57-year-old former paratrooper has shuttled between Caracas and Havana, where he currently is undergoing radiation therapy, while Capriles has begun touring the country in what he’s calling a “door-to-door” campaign to attract disenfranchised government supporters.

Polling Disparity

“It still looks like a tight race, but the point is that at this early stage it is too early to define any trend for the fluidity of the events,” Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America strategy at Jefferies & Co. said today in a note to clients.

Leon said on March 22 that a Datanalisis poll conducted in January showed 45.5 percent of people surveyed would vote for Chavez, 35.2 percent for an as yet undefined opposition candidate and 22 percent didn’t know.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda state that encompasses part of the capital, won an opposition primary election last month in a landslide over four other opposition candidates.

Convalescing Leader

Diosdado Cabello, a Chavez ally who is the president of the National Assembly and vice president of the United Socialist Party said yesterday that the convalescing leader has “at least” a 20 point lead over Capriles.

A separate poll this month by Consultores 21 showed the two candidates locked in a statistical tie. Chavez was favored by 46 percent of those surveyed compared with 45 percent for Capriles, Saul Cabrera, vice president of the Caracas-based pollster, said in a March 22 interview. Another 9 percent of the 2,000 people polled between March 3 and 13 were undecided, Cabrera said.

Consultores 21 said that of the people surveyed who said they were most likely to vote, the advantage for Chavez rises to a 6 percentage point difference of 51 percent to 45 percent with 5 percent undecided.

“It’s impossible for there to be a statistical tie between Chavez and the oligarch’s candidate,” Cabello told a rally of government supporters. “They must have done the poll in a restaurant in Las Mercedes,” he said, in reference to a wealthy neighborhood in Caracas.

Market Reaction

Venezuelan bonds have rallied this year, returning 20 percent year-to-date as investors see an increased probability of a political change that may reverse Chavez’s socialist policies that have fueled inflation and dried up foreign investment. That’s the second-best return in emerging markets after Ivory Coast, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global index.

The yield on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 rose 19 basis points, or 0.19 percentage points, to 11.12 percent today at 10 a.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price fell 1.24 cents to 86.33 cents on the dollar.

“At this point, the data coming out is an initial data point confirming the investor biases that it’s not a slam dunk either way,” Alfredo Viegas, managing director of emerging markets at Knight Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, and the polls are demonstrating that.”

Ministry Poll

The Information Ministry sent a poll by e-mail on March 18 allegedly done by polling company IVAD that showed Chavez with 56.5 percent support compared to 26.6 percent for Capriles and 16.9 percent undecided.

Felix Seijas, director of IVAD, declined to comment on the ministry e-mail when contacted.

“My opinion polls are for internal use in political parties and not something that I’m going to talk about,” Capriles said yesterday in a news conference in Caracas. “The other candidate keeps talking about his huge lead, but it comes off sounding like desperation to me.”

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