CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition hailed on Monday conservative politician Mauricio Macri’s presidential win in Argentina as a blow for leftists in Latin America and a good omen for their own duel with “Chavismo” in next month’s parliamentary vote.
Macri, 56, narrowly defeated ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli as voters punished outgoing President Cristina Fernandez over the economy and her leadership style.
That was a big disappointment for Venezuela’s ruling socialist “Chavismo” movement, which had a close political alliance with Fernandez.
Macri is urging Venezuela’s suspension from South American trade bloc Mercosur for alleged rights abuses by President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
“Argentina, Venezuela and Latin America all win. Democracy and liberty win,” said Maria Corina Machado, a strident opponent of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela’s opposition takes on the ruling Socialist Party in a Dec. 6 parliamentary election where they could win the National Assembly for the first time in more than 15 years.
They predict the beginning of the end for “Chavismo”, though the government also forecasts victory and has some advantages in voting geography and mobilization capacity.
Polls show the opposition ahead on voter preferences, mainly due to anger over the economy: the world’s highest inflation, recession and widespread product shortages.
Some opposition leaders noted pointedly how Scioli had graciously accepted defeat. “I hope Mrs Lucena can see how elections are done!” wrote Henrique Capriles, who unsuccessfully claimed fraud after losing a 2013 presidential vote to Maduro, referring to Venezuela’s election board head Tibisay Lucena.
Venezuela’s on-the-day electronic voting system is endorsed by international experts. But critics accuse the government of skewing the vote in advance by shuffling districts, naming voting centers after Chavez, and using state resources for publicity and transport.
Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuela’s best-known jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, said she was in Argentina for the vote and had hugged the incoming president’s wife.
“She told me she was with Venezuela, she said ‘I am with you and with Leopoldo,’” Tintori said. “Political change in Latin America is starting. Argentines achieved with their vote what is coming to Venezuela on December 6.”
Officials say the opposition has a nondemocratic agenda and is planning violence.
Jorge Rodriguez, head of the government’s parliamentary election campaign, lauded Fernandez as Argentina’s best-ever president and noted Macri’s win was a tight one.
“I didn’t see Scioli call for violence or for the killing of Argentines. I think the Venezuelan right-wing should learn from that example,” he added.
Additional reporting by Buenos Aires bureau; Editing by W Simon and Matthew Lewis