- Title: VENEZUELA: President Hugo Chavez votes in parliamentary election
- Date: 27th September 2010
- Summary: CHAVEZ'S GRANDCHILDRENs
- Embargoed: 12th October 2010 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4HK739MZY0P866G4U6REJ0ITT
- Story Text: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez cast his vote during Sunday's (September 26) elections.
Although his name is not on the ballot, polls show his party is expected to keep control of the National Assembly.
Opposition parties are expected to make big gains after they boycotted the last legislative election five years ago. Their focus is on whether they can take more than a third of the 165 seats up for grabs, which would mean the socialist president would need support from his foes for major changes to laws or to make appointments to important institutions.
"I find it hard to believe that on this planet there is an electoral system as advanced, as transparent, as clear, as efficient, as professional as our electoral system," said Chavez after voting. "I ask that we respect all institutions, that we respect the popular will and surely before midnight, as we are accustomed given the level of demands of our electoral system, we will have results."
More than 17 million people are registered to vote. The polls are due to close at 6 p.m. (2230 GMT), with the first results expected in the following hours.
Chavez is hailed by fans as a champion of Venezuela's many poor, but denounced by critics as a boorish dictator. His popularity is in the 40 percent to 50 percent range -- well below his highs of previous years but probably enough to ensure his ruling Socialist Party retains a majority.
A big win would boost Chavez ahead of the 2012 presidential poll, when he will run for re-election in what would be his 14th year in power. In that time, he has become one of the world's most recognizable -- and controversial -- politicians.
According to polls, the Socialists are a couple of percentage points ahead of a newly united opposition umbrella group, Democratic Unity. Combined with changes to voting rules and the electoral map that favor the government, analysts say, that means Chavez's party is favorite to win.
Opponents, however, say there is a wave of disenchantment with the president that will prove the polls wrong.
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