The official campaign period will run from April 2-11, and analysts say the compressed timeframe will put Capriles at a disadvantage, as Maduro rides a wave of sympathy generated by Chávez’s death. The election will also fall one day after the government commemorates a 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chávez.
“Sunday, April 13, 2002, is the date that Chavez was returned to power with an amazing groundswell and outpouring from the barrios after a short-lived coup,” Russ Dallen, the managing partner of Caracas Capital Markets, wrote subscribers. “Obviously, the government is hoping to use that memory, combined with the death of Chávez, to return his ghost in the shape of Maduro to the Presidential Palace Miraflores. It is a potent allusion that will appeal to the masses and is no accident.”
Before Chávez traveled to Cuba for his final round of treatment Dec. 10, he asked the country to rally behind Maduro. A former union organizer and the administration’s longtime foreign minister, Maduro was named vice president in October. He assumed the presidency on Friday in a move that has been questioned by the opposition and some constitutional scholars, who say the top spot should have been occupied by the head of congress until new elections.
Six other candidates are also registered for the race, the electoral council said.
Maduro has said he will follow Chávez’s economic, social and international policies. On Monday, he told the crowds he would be stepping up plans to take guns off the streets, and overhaul the hospital system.
Capriles is a former mayor and was also the country’s youngest speaker of the house. Until last year’s race against Chávez he had never lost an election. On Sunday, he asked for the late president’s supporters to think about their options.
“Nicolás is not Chávez and the country knows it,” Capriles said. “This [administration] doesn’t work; it’s bad, inefficient and doesn’t solve problems. Nicolás, I am not going to give you a free pass. I’m going to use these hands to fight for every vote.”