Venezuela opposition leader Machado has best chance to beat Maduro, poll says

Opposition leader María Corina Machado addresses a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
Opposition leader María Corina Machado addresses a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. AP

María Corina Machado, one of Venezuela’s opposition leaders most averse to President’s Nicolás Maduro’s plans to hold presidential elections in April, would probably have the greatest chance of beating him, according to a recent poll showing a significant surge in her popularity.

The poll, conducted in November, also confirms that the popularity of the main opposition parties took a hard hit after their controversial decision to participate in failed government talks held in the Dominican Republic which sought, among other things, to establish acceptable conditions for the election.

According to the Pronósticos Marketing Consultants poll, Machado would easily win a primary vote against other opposition candidates, with 26 percent of the vote, beating jailed Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, each of whom would obtain 18 percent.

Former Congress President Henry Ramos Allup would receive 9 percent, followed by exiled former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma at 5 percent, former Lara Governor Henry Falcón with 4 percent and former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, 2 percent.

Pronósticos Marketing Consultants is a boutique polling firm geared towards private companies and its client lists includes some of the country’s largest businesses. The poll is based on the opinions of 1,300 respondents gathered in the capital and all 23 states and has a 3 percent margin of error.

Machado has been strongly against the elections, claiming that the opposition would be making a fatal mistake if it decided to participate in a process that has been specifically tailored to give the ruler legitimacy through a fraudulent victory.

It’s uncertain whether the opposition will participate in the April 22 election, which has already been rejected by a growing list of countries that have said it is illegal and lacks sufficient controls and international supervision to prevent fraud.

The National Constituent Assembly announced the election as tensions mount in the South American country amid a collapsing economy.

The poll’s results are surprising at first glance, especially because other surveys have traditionally given Machado much more modest numbers, favoring the leaders of the political parties that control the opposition coalition known as Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD).

But the surge makes sense, said Diego Moya-Ocampos, who handles Venezuela and other Latin American countries for IHS Markit, a provider of data and information to governments and companies.

“The role that the MUD has played in agreeing to participate in a dialogue process with the government, which was very unpopular among the population, has been pushing aside the Mesa and strengthening the position of leaders like Maria Corina Machado and the Soy Venezuela coalition, which have been rejecting the dialogue,” Moya-Ocampos said.

The MUD’s unpopularity was also picked up by the poll, with only 12 percent of the respondents saying they still backed the coalition.

The growing crisis of confidence among the traditional political parties was also evident: 63 percent said they did not identify themselves with any of the parties, up eight percentage points from the previous month.

Find Antonio María Delgado in Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM