Maduro tops ballot; deadline is Monday
CARACAS, Venezuela – A special election to decide the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s successor will be held in April, with Chavez’s handpicked successor, interim President Nicolas Maduro, to face an opponent or opponents from the opposition.
Maduro, 50, was sworn in as “president in charge” Friday night, three days after Chavez, 58, died at a Caracas military hospital of complications from cancer. A former bus driver and union leader, Maduro served under Chavez as foreign minister and vice president. He is the ruling party’s standard-bearer in the April 14 vote, which falls beyond a constitutionally mandated 30-day limit for a presidential election after an incumbent’s death or resignation.
Maduro’s potential opponents have little time to decide whether to run. National Electoral Council leader Tibisay Lucena said that all candidates must declare themselves no later than Monday.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, spokesman for the Democratic Unity coalition of opposition parties, said immediately after Lucena’s announcement that it would back Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles as the sole candidate to face Maduro. As the Unity candidate in October, Capriles lost to Chavez, 55 percent to 45 percent.
Capriles said in a Twitter message Saturday that he had not decided whether to accept the nomination.
“I am analyzing the declaration of the (electoral council) and in the next few hours I will speak to the nation of my decision,” Capriles wrote.
No matter the opponent, Maduro is a heavy favorite to win the election as the beneficiary of the Chavez legacy and of the enormous outpouring of sympathy since the socialist leader’s death. Moreover, the opposition is still smarting from the October presidential election loss and an even more overwhelming defeat in gubernatorial elections in December.
Maduro named Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is married to Chavez’s daughter, Rosa Virginia, as his vice president and running mate, a move that capitalizes on Chavez’s political legacy, observers said.