Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez trailed opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski for the first time in a Consultores 21 poll ahead of elections in October.
Capriles had 47.7 percent of support against 45.9 percent for Chavez in a poll taken last week, Consultores 21 Vice President Saul Cabrera said today in a phone interview. The survey of 1,000 people had a margin or error of 3.2 percentage points, he said.
Chavez, who is seeking to extend his 13 years in power with another six-year term, has a lead in most other polls. The self-declared socialist’s advantage narrowed to 12.5 points in a Datanalisis poll in August from 15.3 percentage points in June.
“Chavez has hit his ceiling because after 14 years when he’s become well-known it wouldn’t appear he can grow much more than that,” Cabrera said. “On the other hand I can’t see Capriles growing much more because all the indicators are that this is going to be a close race.”
Capriles, a 40-year-old former governor of Miranda state, has visited more than 150 towns across the country, emulating a strategy employed by Chavez when he first gained power in a December 1998 election.
Capriles has sought to mark a contrast with Chavez, who is recovering from an undisclosed form of cancer, by his energetic walks through rural villages of Venezuela. He’s also attempted to win over state employees and the military by releasing video messages in which he said they shouldn’t be persecuted for their political beliefs and should be paid more.
Chavez has preferred to stage large rallies and caravans through selected towns of the country to rally support.
Chavez said yesterday during a campaign rally in the eastern city of Cumana that he expects to beat Capriles with 70 percent of the vote in a “knockout.” Chavez said that Capriles, whom he calls the “loser” and “little bourgeoisie,” is traveling the country for the first time visiting towns as a tourist in contrast to the “million” Venezuelan towns that the self-declared revolutionary has visited during his life.
Chavez, 58, increased government spending 34 percent in the first half of 2012 from a year ago 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 from a year earlier.
Chavez said July 9 that opinion polls showing a technical tie with Capriles are “a joke,” without specifically referring to Consultores 21.
A poll taken between June 15 and June 26 showed the president with 45.9 percent support against 45.8 percent for Capriles. The Caracas-based pollster correctly predicted that Chavez’s opponents would win a slender majority in the popular vote in legislative elections in September 2010.