Caracas (Venezuela): When he takes the stage at campaign rallies, Hugo Chavez stands alone.
Under Venezuela`s election system, presidential hopefuls don`t choose running mates, and that raises few eyebrows in normal years.
But this has not been a normal year. President Chavez has been fighting a mysterious cancer, and the lack of a prospective No 2 has left voters wondering who in fact would take over were Chavez to win next month`s elections but be forced to leave office prematurely.
Nearly alone among South American nations, Venezuelan law leaves designation of a vice president until after the new leader is sworn in. It did not even have a vice president until 1999, when the office was created in a new constitution promoted by Chavez.
Campaigning against youthful challenger Henrique Capriles, Chavez seldom mentions his health problems, which over the past 15 months have required frequent trips to Cuba for three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When asked about his health last week, Chavez said his last checkup in June showed he was cancer-free and "everything will be fine."
Still, even some loyal Chavez supporters who plan to vote for him on October 7 acknowledge feeling uneasy about the uncertainty.
"Who would take his place? Nobody knows, and that`s makes me worry," said Maria Lovera, a street vendor selling household cleaning supplies on a street corner.