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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 4:19 pm

Venezuela local elections set for July

By JORGE RUEDAAssociated Press

The chief of Venezuela's electoral council announced on Tuesday that the country will hold municipal elections on July 14, much later than tentative dates discussed earlier.

National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena announced the date for the elections at a news conference. Election officials had earlier mentioned May 26 as a possible date for the local elections.

Lucena said that the date had not previously been set and that the council decided on July to allow adequate time for preparations.

The decision was announced amid uncertainty about President Hugo Chavez's future. He has remained in Cuba for seven weeks after his latest surgery there for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer.

Before the Dec. 11 operation, Chavez announced that he had chosen Vice President Nicolas Maduro to be his designated successor. He called on Venezuelans to vote for Maduro if a new presidential vote were held to replace him. The constitution says that if a president dies or is incapacitated, a new election should be held in 30 days.

Lucena did not say anything about such a scenario. She said time is needed to prepare for municipal elections that are to be "very complex." Candidates will be running for mayoral posts and other local offices.

Most members of the electoral council are widely considered to lean pro-government, and critics have accused the council in the past of setting dates that suit the political aims of Chavez's government.

Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster and analyst, said the reasons behind the later date are fueling speculation but what's clear is that the government seems to need more time to deal with internal matters. He said, however, that any talk of officials possibly making behind-the-scenes preparations for a presidential election remain "pure speculation."