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article imageVenezuelans 'Judgement Day' as the counting begins

By Eko Armunanto     Apr 14, 2013 in World
It is the time for Venezuelans to decide whether to vote for sustaining Chavez's socialism legacy pledged by a former bus driver or for business-friendly changes vowed by a young capitalist challenger.
For the first time in 14 years, Venezuelans hit the polls Sunday to elect a president without Hugo Chavez on the ballot. Authorities said that despite scattered problems, voting was peaceful and orderly. The race pit interim President Nicolas Maduro, 50, Chavez’s chosen successor, against Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles, 40. Nicolas Maduro is the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's candidate. Henrique Capriles Radonski represents a coalition of opposition parties.
Capriles lost to Chavez in October's presidential vote, coming within 10 percentage points of the longtime leader. It was a significant gap, but the closest any opposition candidate ever came to defeating Chavez during his rule. Capriles is therefore running his second presidential campaign in less than a year.
Voters in both opposition strongholds and pro-government sectors of the capital said lines were moving faster than usual, and that turnout appeared to be lighter than in October’s presidential election. But some of it may be by design. The opposition asked its younger supporters to vote later in the day to keep the administration on its toes. Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo, reporting from Caracas, said some polling stations will remain open until everyone has had a chance to vote. She said many of Nicolas Maduro's supporters started lining up to vote in the early hours of Sunday.
Authorities detained 43 people Sunday for alleged electoral crimes, Major General Wilmer Barrientos told CNN. As polls were closing on Sunday evening, Twitter accounts for Maduro and his party were apparently hacked with posts denouncing "electoral fraud." A group calling itself Lulz Security Peru claimed responsibility, while officials from Maduro's campaign criticized what they said were "dirty tactics," blaming right-wing political opponents for the hacking. Despite such incidents, elections officials said Sunday evening that the day had proceeded smoothly without major incidents.
Optimism was high on both sides, and some worry that a close or contested result could spark unrest, given the deep mutual mistrust on both sides, said Reuters. Maduro had a double-digit lead over opposition challenger Henrique Capriles in most polls heading into election day, but the gap narrowed in recent days, with one survey putting it at 7 percentage points.
In the 23 de Enero neighborhoods, near the fort where Chavez’s body was interred, locals said it took them less than three minutes to vote. “Everyone in this neighborhood voted for Maduro,” said Mirella Godoy, “because that’s what Chavez told us to do”. On the other hand, Jose Luis Lopez from the opposition's neighborhoods said Maduro lacks Chavez’s charisma and leadership qualities, and that makes him vulnerable. Even if Chavez did name Maduro his successor, it doesn’t mean the former foreign minister will get the votes, he said. “Just because he has Superman’s cape doesn’t mean he can fly,” Lopez said.
More about nicolas maduro, Venezuela, Hugo chavez, Venezuelan elections
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