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Venezuela local elections test Maduro

Credit Reuters

People in Venezuela have begun voting in municipal elections seen as a crucial test for President Nicolas Maduro.

Mr Maduro narrowly won a presidential election in April to replace Hugo Chavez who had died from cancer.

Since November, Mr Maduro has been ruling by decree, promising to tackle corruption and control price rises.

The opposition accuses him of failing to deal with crime, inflation and a shortage of basic goods.

The BBC’s Irene Caselli in the capital, Caracas, says local elections are usually low key, but this one is filled with expectations for the government and the opposition.

Voters are electing mayors to 337 municipalities and officials to more than 2,000 city councils.

Nicolas Maduro holds documents allowing him to rule by decree. 19 Nov 2013The National Assembly granted Nicolas Maduro power to rule by decree for 12 months

The opposition currently controls about 50 municipalities but hopes to double that number.

Most polls show the government coalition is likely to win in a majority of municipalities.

But what is less clear is whether it will be able to maintain control of Caracas and Maracaibo – Venezuela’s two largest cities.

As polling started, President Maduro reminded Venezuelans in a tweet to celebrate “a day of loyalty and love towards Chavez and the Motherland”.

Sunday’s elections coincide with the anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s famous speech in which he announced that his cancer had returned and named Mr Maduro as his preferred successor.

Official results are expected to be announced a few hours after polls close at 18:00 local time (22:30 GMT), as voting is electronic.

Although 19 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote, turnout is expected to be low.

Mr Maduro was granted special powers to rule by decree for a year to deal with Venezuela’s economic crisis.

Since then he has legislated on the prices of electronics, toys, clothes, and new and second-hand cars.

The opposition says the government’s left-wing policies are keeping foreign investment away and hurting the economy.

Source: BBC

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