With less than five months to go before Venezuelan elections, President Hugo Chávez is leading in a new poll, but the race remains tight amid doubts about his health.
According to a survey by the Varianzas polling firm, 50.7 percent of respondents said they would vote for Chávez versus 45.5 percent for his rival Henrique Capriles if the election were held this month. A full 3.7 percent were undecided, according to Tuesday’s poll.
Chávez’s lead over Capriles has increased by about one percentage point since April 3, the last time Varianzas issued a survey. Varianzas surveyed 1,900 people from May 12-26, and the study had a margin of error of plus/minus 2-3 percent, the company said.
The study comes as both men have been stepping up their campaigns ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential race and as Chávez has been fighting an undisclosed form of cancer. In recent weeks, the 57-year-old leader has said he has beaten the disease but the poll highlighted how important his health is in these elections.
When asked who they would vote for if Chávez still had cancer on election day, respondents were evenly split with 46.9 percent for each candidate.
The poll also found that Capriles would win the race by double-digit margins if he had to face Vice President Elias Jaua, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro or Chávez’s brother Adán. All four men are thought to be on the ruling party’s shortlist if the president’s health keeps him from running.
Battling cancer since at least June, Chávez has not been unable to mount a vigorous campaign this year. On Monday, reacting to other polls that also show him in the lead, Chávez said that “even rocks” knew he was going to win another six-year term.