Caracas: A large number of Venezuelans queued up at the polling stations, hours before they opened, to cast their votes in Sunday’s Presidential election that pits the left-wing incumbent Hugo Chavez against the “centre-left” (a coalition of opposition parties) candidate Henrique Capriles and is deemed to be the closest race for the nation’s head in a decade.
Around 9 million Venezuelans are expected to vote in the closely-contested election.
Both the rivals have used heated-campaigns and social media to encourage people to vote in their favour.
Polling will take place at more than 10,000 booths that are guarded by thousands of soldiers to avoid any untoward happening.
According to BBC, voting is scheduled to close at 18:00 local time (22:30 GMT) but can be extended if voters still continue to line up.
The election will decide if Hugo Chavez, who has twice won re-election, will come back for a third term and govern till another six years, that is, till 2019.
Chavez’s challenger is a 40 year old Henrique Capriles, a former mayor from Caracas district who in 2008 defeated a Chavez ally, Diosdado Cabello, to become governor in Miranda state.
The 58-year old Chavez, who has been Venezuelan President since 1999, had earlier survived a short-lived coup in 2002.
Capriles if wins the election, would be the youngest President of the nation so far and being of the centre-left views, might bring considerable changes in Chavez’s socialist policies.
Capriles says he believes in ex-Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva`s ideas of promotion of pro-business policies while also funding social programs for the poor.
Just a day before election, Chavez held a news conference for international media, but citing election law (that forbids candidates to make political statements two days before election), he dodged tough questions.
Condemning his press conference, Capriles tweeted, “Some people at this hour are continuing with the same nonsense as always, the same old stories, with the difference being that they are of farewell”.
Capriles himself has not appeared in public since Thursday in compliance with election law.
Chavez who announced in June 2011, that he had a cancerous tumour in his pelvic region, now says, is cancer-free.
With Agency Inputs