Election day in Venezuela began today before dawn, with lines forming in the dark as bugle calls and a recording of the late Hugo Chavez singing the national anthem rang out. Chavez haunts the proceedings in more than one way, with handpicked successor and longtime deputy Nicolas Maduro facing a referendum in which he is favored, but quickly losing ground among those dissatisfied with Chavez's legacy, notes the AP. "We can't continue to believe in messiahs," says one supporter of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Chavez six months ago. The nitty gritty, as per the BBC:
- The election marks the first time in 14 years that Chavez is not on the ballot, though Maduro is riding hard on his coattails; the AP notes that he's said little about the issues. His campaign slogan: "I am Chavez. We are all Chavez."
- The problem with being Chavez: While millions were pulled out of poverty because of his socialist programs, the country is still dogged by rolling power outages, inflation, crime, and food and medicine shortages. Many feel Chavez wasted much of $1 trillion in oil revenues on his watch; Capriles has highlighted "the incompetence of the state."
- Some 19 million voters are eligible to vote. They began turning out as early as 3am local time, some with chairs and food in anticipation of a long wait.
- Votes are electronic, with machines scanning fingerprints and submitting a vote anonymously.
- Polls close at 5pm Eastern. Results are expected to take about three hours.
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