Venezuela

Poll shows Venezuelans have lost faith in voting, even as Maduro seeks new term

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro reaches for letters written by supporters during a rally marking the anniversary of the failed 1992 coup led by late President Hugo Chávez in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. Maduro will run for reelection in this year’s presidential election.
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro reaches for letters written by supporters during a rally marking the anniversary of the failed 1992 coup led by late President Hugo Chávez in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. Maduro will run for reelection in this year’s presidential election. AP

A new poll released in Venezuela paints a picture of a despondent and disheartened country that has lost faith in its electoral system even as it staggers through a deep economic crisis.

In a survey released Wednesday by the polling company Meganalisis, 85 percent of the respondents said the country was in a “grave humanitarian crisis” and that people “were going hungry,” but only 29 percent said they planned to vote in upcoming presidential elections.

Among those who planned to skip the election, 45 percent said the reason was because “we always vote but the hunger persists,” another 20 percent said it was a “waste of time,” and 13 percent said they had no faith in an opposition that had “betrayed” them too many times.

The survey of 1,120 people has a margin of error of 3.2 percent, Meganalisis said.

The study comes as talks between government negotiators and a faction of the opposition broke down on Wednesday. The government then set the election for April 22.

In a series of tweets, opposition representative Julio Borges said the talks were stalled because the administration was denying Venezuelans their basic constitutional rights.

“The government needs to shed the fear of losing and allow free elections,” he wrote.

The United States and countries in the region have said the snap elections don’t provide any democratic guarantees. Other polls suggest that even as Maduro has approval ratings below 30 percent, he could win another six-year term in a rushed election where the opposition is divided and disorganized.

Read More: Poll gives Maduro lead in presidential race, despite crisis

On Tuesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reiterated that his country would not recognize the results of what he said would be an unfair election.

“Maduro would never accept free and transparent elections because he knows he would lose them,” Santos added.

According to the Meganalisis poll, conducted in the last week of January, 72.5 percent of respondents said they did not trust the National Electoral Council, which sets the rules for the vote and has been criticized for sidelining opposition parties and leaders.

The study also highlights the weakness of political parties. The survey found that 12 percent identified themselves as members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, 6 percent identified with the MUD opposition coalition, and 81 percent said they did not belong to any party.

Read More: U.S. seeks regional solution to Venezuela crisis

Meganalisis Vice President Ruben Chirino Leañez said the people’s dismay is understandable.

“Many of them feel like they’ve gone to vote so many times and nothing ever changes — they’re still going hungry,” he said. “They see voting as a [futile] activity that doesn’t change their reality.”

Wracked by corruption and falling oil prices, Venezuela has been caught in a deep economic and political crisis that includes hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. Without a political resolution in sight, hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years.

Although it wasn’t specified in the report, Chirino said that about 10 percent of those interviewed didn’t believe there was any solution to the country’s problems. Another 64 percent did believe there might be a non-electoral solution to the crisis.

“But the nature of that solution is intangible,” he said, “they’re not sure what it is.”

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