Venezuelans vote for state governors, while questions about Chavez's health swirl
On the day of elections for 23 state governorships, which could shake up the opposition, Venezuelans seemed more focused on President Hugo Chavez's recovery from a cancer-related operation he underwent in Cuba last week.
Venezuelans vote on Sunday in state elections that will define the future of opposition leader Henrique Capriles and test political forces ahead of a possible new presidential vote if Hugo Chavez is incapacitated by cancer.Skip to next paragraph
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The vote for 23 state governorships, seven of which are currently controlled by the opposition, has been overshadowed by the president's battle to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba.
Capriles, 40, needs to hold on to the governorship of Miranda state to remain the opposition's presidential candidate-in-waiting, while both sides will want a good showing to create momentum in case of a new showdown over who replaces Chavez.
"This is the best indication of how well the opposition will fare in an upcoming contest for the presidency between Henrique Capriles and designated Chavez dauphin Vice President Nicolas Maduro," said Russell Dallen ofCaracas-based BBO Financial Services.
Turnout was thin in early voting across the country, in contrast to the long lines for the presidential ballot two months ago, which handed Chavez a third term.
"I'm surprised. In the presidential election I got here at 3 a.m. and there were a lot of people in line. Today I got here at 5 a.m. and I was the first person," said Nathaly Betancourt, who was voting in the western city of Punto Fijo.
The South American OPEC nation appears more focused on Chavez's recovery in Havana from Tuesday's operation, the socialist leader's fourth since he was diagnosed with cancer in his pelvic region in mid-2011.
Government officials on Saturday night said Chavez had regained full consciousness and was giving instructions. His son-in-law, who serves as Science and Technology Minister, acknowledged there had been "moments of tension" during and after the operation, but said Chavez was steadily improving.