United States and Venezuela: contrasting election campaigns

The US election in just over a month is the focal point of the media. The election of the “leader of the free world” is of interest to all and certainly needs to be monitored closely.

But another important election will be held this Sunday in Venezuela; will Hugo Chavez retain his presidency after 14 years or will Henrique Capriles Radonski oust him at the ballot box?

One thing is certain when one looks at the two elections, they are very different. One of the main pillars of US election campaigns is the series of debates: presidential candidates face off against each other as do vice-presidential candidates. These events can get testy, but for the most part civility reigns and nuance is often the determining factor – a candidate who sighs, or rolls his eyes may find himself dropping in the polls the next day.

Contrast that with Chavez’ comment in June when the subject of a debate was put to him:

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has ruled out holding a pre-election debate with opponent Henrique Capriles, saying he would be “ashamed” to measure himself against such a “nonentity.” – The Telegraph

Worse still are the confrontations between supporters of the two candidates. Democrat and Republican voters engage in vociferous debate and argument during the US campaign, but when rallies are held in Venezuela violence is unfortunately not uncommon.

At least two supporters of the opposition candidate in Venezuela’s presidential election were shot to death on Saturday, raising tensions as the campaign enters its final week.

Opposition officials said the two were shot in a confrontation with supporters of President Hugo Chávez, who is seeking re-election. The shooting occurred in Barinas, the state where Mr. Chávez was born and where he maintains strong support.

“Our people are tired of violence, of division, of confrontation,” said the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, at a huge march that filled the streets of Caracas on Sunday. “There was no reason that these three young people had to fall, a result of the intolerance of a few.” – New York Times

Rumours of electoral fraud are also part of the Venezuelan campaign, although most observers state that massive fraud is not possible. In the US, with the exception of the occasional hanging chad, elections are smooth and safe.

Hopefully both elections will be peaceful and the winner will be democracy.

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