Venezuela Elections Could Prove Costly for Chávez

Venezuela Elections Could Prove Costly for Chávez

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- Venezuelans will take to the polling stations over the weekend in nationwide elections that are being seen as a litmus test for the future of President Hugo Chávez and a golden opportunity for the opposition to regain its presence in local government.

The local elections, which include 22 state governorships and over 300 mayoral posts up for grabs, are the first real test of Chávez's popularity following his narrow defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform -- which would have allowed Chávez's indefinite re-election -- last December.

Four years ago in the last local elections, pro-Chávez candidates secured 20 out of 22 state governorships, wiping the opposition off the political map. But this time around, polls forecast that opposition candidates are set to make significant gains. Predictions among local pollsters vary but opposition candidates are likely to win at least four states, and some polling firms are projecting even up to 10 states.

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