Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is only two months into his leadership of the socialist country following the death of longtime strongman Hugo Chavez earlier this year, but things are already going decidedly poorly for him. Opposition leader Henry Capriles has yet to back down on his challenge to the legitimacy of Maduro’s ostensible victory in the special election, and that highly public conflict combined with other roiling political instability and major economic problems are having quite the negative impact on his popularity. Maduro has tried time and time again to inexorably link up his own image with that of the country’s erstwhile leader in an attempt to buoy up Venezuelans’ confidence and/or affection for him, but the strategy hasn’t been nearly enough to stop what appears to be a growing tide of disenchantment and dissatisfaction:

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles says President Nicolas Maduro’s government will “cave in” under the pressure of growing economic troubles, in-fighting and a belief by many Venezuelans that it stole the April election. …

“I think this government, in the current conditions of illegitimacy added to a deep economic crisis it’s showing no intention of addressing, is going to cave in,” Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, told Reuters. …

Some opinion polls show Capriles a few points ahead of Maduro should a presidential election be repeated – an unlikely prospect, however, given the election board’s multiple pronouncements that the results stand, including after an audit.

“This is the only government that took over and did not go up in the polls,” Capriles said. “There was no honeymoon. Look at all the countries in the Americas and the world, a government goes up some 10-15 points after taking over. Look at the opinion polls now, Maduro has an average of 40 percent.”

Of course, the various well-entrenched installations of the Venezuelan government are having none of that; their Electoral Council just finished up an “audit” of the special election that confirmed the only results that Maduro’s regime could ever possibly allow:

Venezuela’s Electoral Council has completed an audit of results from April’s bitterly contested presidential election, and as expected it confirmed Nicolas Maduro’s 1.5 percentage-point victory. …

Backers of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles claim rampant irregularities included the intimidation of voters and manipulating the outcome through votes cast in the names of dead people still on voting rolls. …

Capriles has called the audit a farce.

He has challenged the April 13 election results at the Supreme Court, which like the National Electoral Council is dominated by the political heirs of President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March after anointing Maduro as his successor.

And that’s just the one facet of the political side of the instability-spectrum; when I said “major economic problems,” I was not messing around. The Financial Times reports:

Hyperinflation is looming in Venezuela, with prices suffering their highest monthly rise on record in May, while the economy slides into recession and the popularity of Nicolas Maduro, the new president, wanes.

Prices rose 6.1 per cent in May, compared with 1.6 per cent in the same period last year, bringing accumulated inflation for the first five months of 2013 to 19.4 per cent, almost as high as the annual figure for 2012 of 20.1 per cent. …

At the same time, the economy is losing steam, with 0.7 per cent growth registered in the first quarter of 2013, compared with 5.9 per cent growth in the same period last year. Analysts at London-based consultancy Capital Economics suspect that the Venezuelan economy may already be in recession, and forecast that gross domestic product will contract by 1 per cent this year.

The highly import-dependent Venezuelans are dealing with everyday shortages of basic commodities like toilet paper, flour, sugar, milk, butter, and cooking oil, while the country’s economic growth rate stalls out and dollars are getting harder and harder to come by. If he has any intention of keeping the political situation under control and stopping Venezuelans’ material suffering, he better start making moves.