Venezuela's six million voters go to the polls on Sunday (3 December) to elect a new president and government.
Venezuela's six million voters go to the polls on Sunday (3 December) to elect a new president and government. The oil rich country is one of the few Latin American states with a democratic system and there've been free elections since 1958, when the country's last dictator was overthrown.
SYNOPSIS: March 1974. The outgoing president, Dr. Raphael Caldera, who had lost the elections five months earlier, at the swearing in ceremony for Senor Carlos Andrez Perez - Venezuela's current leader. He has been prevented, by the constitution from taking part in the election campaign, and cannot run for ten years. This year, as in previous election, the majority of votes are expected to be divided between two parties -- both politically left of centre.
Campaigning in the country has been going on full swing since earlier this year -- and has been usually noisy, extravagant and expensive. The candidate from President Perez's ruling Democratic Action Party, AD, which gained almost half of the votes last time, is a 53 year old former interior minister, Senor Luis Pinerua Ordaz. The party has dominated politics in Venezuela -- it has been out of power only once since 1958. With Senor Pinerua as presidential candidate, the Democratic Action Party is said to be favourites to win. His campaign has been based on continuing President Perez's administration programme and he had emphasised dealing with domestic problems - crime, water shortages, housing and starting an anti-corruption drive.
The other major party, runners up in the 1973 elections with over one third of the vote is the Social Christian party, COPEI. Their candidate for president, 53 years old Senor Luis herrera Campins, is a senator and journalist. The last time his party were in power were the five years from 1968, an election victory helped by a split in the AD party. Most of the signs this year point to a close fought election, with Senor herrera Campins vigorously attacking the government for spending more money than ever before - without solving any major problems.
Among the eight other presidential candidates is Senor Jose Vincente Rangel, of the left-wing Movement towards Socialism MAS. It is a party which preaches a democratic form of socialism and is expected to take most of the left-wing votes. Senor Rangel has concentrated his campaign among the unions and in slum areas.
Senor Beltran Prieto Figueroa, a former senator with the Ad party. now heads the People's Electoral Movement. In the last elections the far left parties together took just under ten percent of the votes, with other minor groups, including the far right parties, sharing the remainder, about five percent.
The failure earlier this year of the left to present a common candidate has weakened their potential impact, so it is likely that once again the combined total of left-wing candidates like the Communist Party's Senor Hector Mujica will stay around the ten percent mark.