Venezuela’s presidential vote set for Oct 2012

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s presidential vote  will be held on Oct. 7 next year when socialist leader Hugo  Chavez hopes to win re-election and prolong his self-styled  “revolution” in South America’s largest oil exporting country.

Henrique Capriles Radonski

Yesterday’s announcement starts what is expected to be a  close race between Chavez, who is being treated for cancer, and  an opposition candidate to be picked in a February primary.

The charismatic but authoritarian Chavez, 57, has dominated  Venezuela since 1999, thrilling supporters in shanty-town  strongholds but alienating many others with his blunt rhetoric,  tough treatment of critics and sweeping nationalizations.

The man who has become Washington’s main irritant in Latin  America — a mantle inherited from Cuba’s Fidel Castro — wants  to rule for at least two more six-year terms until 2025.

“Onward everyone with Chavez to victory in 2012!” said his  Information Minister Andres Izarra after the National Election  Board’s announcement of the date ended months of uncertainty.

The opposition has scheduled its primary election for Feb.  12 next year, with the youthful governor of Miranda state,  Henrique Capriles Radonski, 39, favoured to win.

He will be challenged by fellow opposition Governor Pablo  Perez of Zulia state and others.

The October date gives the opposition plenty of time to run  a campaign and also leaves Chavez more than a year to get his  health back on track. He underwent cancer surgery in June and  is due to start a fourth round of chemotherapy within days.

Chavez hopes his popularity among the poor, due to both his  folksy style and heavy spending of the OPEC member’s oil  revenues on schools, clinics and other services in poor areas,  will again carry the day.

The opposition says Venezuelans are tired of what they see  as Chavez’s mismanagement of the economy and dictatorial style.  Crime, failing electricity and high prices are among the main  concerns of the nation’s 29 million people, polls show.

Opposition leaders, who had feared the election may be  brought even further forward to try and wrongfoot them,  expressed satisfaction.

“It’s more than sufficient for an election campaign,” one  of them, Henry Ramos Allup, told reporters.

“President Chavez will lose the elections in October …  he’ll have to hand over the presidency in January (2013).”

 “CONSTRUCTIVE NEWS”      

Boris Segura, senior economist at Nomura International  Securities in New York, said authorities had chosen a sensible  date, even though they had brought it forward from December  when Venezuela traditionally holds presidential votes.

“This is very constructive news, in that it provides the  opposition with enough time to campaign after it chooses its  candidate in February,” he said.

“The announcement reduces political uncertainty, improves  the opposition’s chances of success and thus bodes well for  improving Venezuela’s credit profile,” Segura said.

Venezuela sovereign bonds, considered by far the riskiest  debt instruments tracked by the JP Morgan Emerging Markets Bond  Index Plus, outperformed on Tuesday.

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