Previewing the Presidential Election in Venezuela

April 10, 2013
by Doug Gavel

Voters in Venezuela are preparing to head to the polls on Sunday (April 14) to elect a new president to succeed Hugo Chávez, the controversial former leader who died of cancer in March. Many eyes will be looking intently to ensure a fair and equitable election, including Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development and director of Harvard Kennedy School's Center for International Development. Hausman is a former Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank (1994-2000), and former Minister of Planning of Venezuela (1992-1993). We asked for his perspectives on the election.

Q: What are the most important issues at play in this election?

A: This election, as with all recent elections in Venezuela, has been about a choice between a market-oriented democracy and an authoritarian, statist and collectivist alternative. Nicolás Maduro, Chavez's designated successor, has said little of what he plans to do but his rhetoric has been quite extreme. Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, has taken possession of the political center, and proposes to combine more private sector led growth with strong social programs.

Q: The winner of this presidential election will succeed Hugo Chávez, the controversial ruler who died of cancer in early March. What are the most significant challenges that will face the new president?

A: Hugo Chávez left a macroeconomic mess and a deeply polarized society. He embarked in the mother of all fiscal expansions in order to win last year's election and now the economy is suffering from high inflation, a collapsing currency and shortages of food and other essentials. The new president will have to deal with this economic inheritance in a society that has destroyed the normal mechanisms for political negotiation and consensus building.

Q: Does the country have a history of well orchestrated “clean” elections?

A: The country has a recent history of extreme abuse of electoral rules to favor the government and of deep distrust of the electoral authority which is dominated by Chavez loyalists, who make no attempt to reach across the aisle. Distrust is dangerously high.

Professor Ricardo Hausmann

Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development

"The country has a recent history of extreme abuse of electoral rules to favor the government and of deep distrust of the electoral authority which is dominated by Chavez loyalists, who make no attempt to reach across the aisle."


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