Caracas – With just a few days to go to the Dec. 6 vote for Venezuela’s National Assembly, one of the most respected polling firms in the country, Venebarometro, is giving the opposition a 15-point lead nationally.
Two months ago, before the government launched a massive – and, critics say, unlawful – campaign to promote its candidates, the opposition was leading by 21 points, according to a similar poll by the same firm.
In the most recent one, conducted in the last days of November, 42.7 percent of those consulted said they would vote for opposition candidates, while 27.6 percent said they favor the government’s nominees. Independent candidates garnered 11.1 percent of the preferences and as many as 18.7 percent said they are still undecided.
That said, doubts persist as to the transparency of the process.
“This election will go down in history as Venezuela’s most unfair electoral process in the last 60 years,” said political analyst Luis Salamanca to Fox News Latino. “The National Electoral Council has favored the government in a wide range of issues,” he added, referring to the convenient redrawing of districts and the open use of public money to fund the ruling party’s campaigns.
These tactics, Salamanca and others say, explain why despite mounting discontent over the economy and crime, Chavismo still has a chance of getting a majority of the congressional seats.
“Many of those undecided are former Chavistas angry with the country’s bad economic situation. Whatever they do on Dec. 6th can change the electoral outcome,” said Edgard Gutierrez, Venebarometro’s director, to FNL.
On Sunday Venezuelans will pick all 167 lawmakers that make up the National Assembly. Most of them will be selected in 87 districts purposefully redrawn with the benefit of the ruling party in mind — in order to retain the majority of the chamber, Chavismo will need to upset the vote in formerly considered opposition bastions by 10 percent or more.
Meanwhile, the opposition needs to win at least seven seats in adverse territories by more than 10 points. In all, the opposition needs 84 seats to take control of the Assembly. It currently holds 65 seats.
Making matters worse for the opposition – made up of more than a dozen parties running under Democratic Unity Roundtable umbrella – the ruling party is heavily exploiting the government’s stranglehold on the media, making the opposition virtually invisible during the campaign.
By a Fox News Latino count, between May and today President Nicolas Maduro has appeared in 54 public televised events, mostly alongside PSUV candidates inaugurating public works built with state funding, delivering pension benefits to the elderly and giving cars as part of various social programs.
In the face of this massive giving and spending, which openly violates the Constitution mandate, the opposition has concentrated most of its energy in reaching out directly to voters.
“We spent a lot of money in flyers and brochures that can be delivered door to door. We think that’s more effective for us,” said Miguel Pizarro, a candidate in Miranda’s third district, a popular segment in the east of Caracas.
But in the last few weeks violence has gotten in the way of this last-resort strategy, with alleged government sympathizers perpetrating attacks against opposition rallies in different parts of the country. These include two rallies headed by Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate, and two by jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori.
An attack last week in the town of Guarico, in central Venezuela, took the life of Luis Manuel Díaz, a leader of opposing party Accion Democratica.
“Given this scenario, it’s pretty amazing that the opposition is arriving to Election Day with a clear chance of winning,” said Salamanca.
The only international organism allowed as an observer of Sunday’s election is the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), whose calls for peace and fairness have not been addressed by the National Electoral Council.
“The violence seen in the last few days can scare away the opposition’s observers that are meant to prevent irregularities at the 14,515 polling stations,” Salamanca told FNL. “This makes their job harder.”
In a statement, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said "the eyes of the world" will be on Venezuela this Sunday and pointed fingers at the Obama administration for not acting more forcefully against Maduro's "campaign of intimidation and criminality."
“Instead of standing up for democracy, free elections, and the rule of law in Venezuela, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have acquiesced to dictators like Chavez and Maduro whose regime of criminality, corruption, and narcotrafficking threatens Venezuela, the Western Hemisphere, and our own interests," Bush said.
Franz von Bergen is a freelancer reporter living in Caracas.