- Title: VENEZUELA: Parliamentary candidates close campaigns before election
- Date: 25th September 2010
- Summary: BOY DRESSED IN MILITARY UNIFORM LIKE CHAVEZ
- Embargoed: 10th October 2010 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6VRQ9IC1P166XW7FGIN88EZCZ
- Story Text: Venezuelan parliamentary candidates closed their campaigns on Thursday (September 23), days ahead of an election in which the opposition is certain to make gains but probably not enough to wrest legislative control from President Hugo Chavez in the 12th year of his socialist "revolution."
The energetic President Hugo Chavez has been criss-crossing Venezuela to drum up support for his candidates for the 165-seat National Assembly in a vote that is a precursor to the 2012 presidential race.
At one rally, he and this young supporter serenaded Chavez's daughter Rosa Ines with a mariachi for her 13th birthday.
"Madrecita' dedicated to Rosa Ines Chavez there in Barquisimeto, wherever you are. Here it goes. A serenade for Rosa Ines," he said.
Chavez's popularity is hovering in the 40-50 percent range, according to most polls and analysts. That is well below his highs of previous years, but probably enough to ensure his ruling Socialist Party keeps a majority in parliament.
The Socialists are a couple of percentage points ahead of a newly-united opposition umbrella group, Democratic Unity, polls show. That, combined with changes to voting rules and the electoral map that favor the government, means Chavez's party enters the vote as favorite.
Opposition parties are, however, guaranteed significant gains because they boycotted the last parliamentary vote in 2005.
Chavez predicted a victory on Sunday and said it would foretell his re-election in two years.
"Sunday is the great battle and the great victory of Sunday will be the announcement of what will happen here in two years, the presidential election of December 2012 that is around the corner. But you know that in December of 2012, we will not only elect the president of the republic again, if God and the Virgin (Mary) will it and I am alive and healthy, you know that I'm ready for six more years after 2012, to continue along with you to make the fatherland socialist," 56-year-old Chavez told supporters during one of his many daily speeches and rallies.
Opposition candidates are banking on voter discontent with Chavez's authoritarian style, one of the world's worst murder rates outside a war zone, a second year of recession and untamed inflation to give them a real shot at winning a majority.
Candidate Enrique Mendoza urged his supporters to go to the polls.
"It's necessary to understand that if we vote, we vote and we all have to do that," he said.
The critical point is whether Chavez's party can hold on to a two-thirds majority needed to pass major legislation. In the past, after election wins, Chavez has used the political capital to step up the pace of nationalizations and socialist reforms.
A big victory for Chavez would probably mean a deepening and acceleration of his socialist overhaul of South America's top oil exporter. But he could also respond to a weak showing on Sunday by driving quick reforms through the National Assembly before new legislators take office.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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