March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela will hold a special presidential election in mid-April that will pit Hugo Chavez’s handpicked successor against a unified opposition.
The two leading candidates will register tomorrow for the April 14 vote. Members of the National Election Council decided on the election date after holding a minute of silence for Chavez, who died March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer, council President Tibisay Lucena said in televised remarks yesterday.
“The republic is going through difficult times,” Lucena said. “It’s fundamental to recognize the historic relevance of the path we’re about to go down, and its importance to the stability and strengthening of our democracy.”
Chavez’s designated heir Nicolas Maduro will run after he was sworn in March 8 as interim president. The former union leader and foreign affairs minister spent his first full day in office yesterday meeting with a Chinese delegation led by Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Chavez’s rivals will rally around a single candidate, Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, the opposition alliance, known as the Democratic Unity Table, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
“I am going to fight with you and for all of you,” Capriles said in a televised press conference this evening. “Nicolas, I’m not giving you a free path.”
The governor lost by 11 percentage points in the October 2012 election, which was the closest presidential campaign of Chavez’s 14 years in power.
Maduro enjoys a 46.4 percent to 34.3 percent advantage over Capriles, according to a survey taken Jan. 31 to Feb. 20 by Caracas-based polling company Datanalisis. The poll has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.
The former bus driver has vowed to sustain his mentor Chavez’s policies of redistributing wealth and increasing the state’s role in the economy. South America’s largest oil producer will continue to use the industry’s profits to feed and house the poor, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on state TV yesterday.
Capriles this week denounced as “fraud” a Supreme Court ruling allowing Maduro to serve as caretaker while campaigning for the presidency, terming that a violation of the constitution.
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