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Chavez’s fourth presidential election win in October saw record turnout of 80 percent. This time, though, both sides worry that participation could be lower because of election fatigue.
Many Venezuelans could be forgiven for feeling like they are stuck in a never-ending campaign. Opposition primaries early last year were followed by the ailing president’s dramatic re-election, and then a vote to choose state governors in December.
Maduro has cloaked himself in the imagery of Chavez and calls himself the late president’s “son.” At events around the nation, supporters chanted “With Chavez and Maduro, the people are safe!” and “Chavez, I swear to you, I’ll vote for Maduro!”
At every rally, Maduro played a video of Chavez naming him as successor in December - “my firm opinion, clear like the full moon, irreversible” - in his final speech to Venezuelans.
If Maduro wins, he will immediately face big challenges as he tries to stamp his authority on a disparate ruling coalition while lacking his predecessor’s charisma, or the healthy state finances that Chavez enjoyed in last year’s race.
It is hard to forecast how he might do things his own way. Like many senior officials, Maduro was passionately loyal to Chavez and never expressed a different opinion in public.
Supporters say he could use his background as a union negotiator-turned-diplomat to build bridges, perhaps even with the United States after tensions during Chavez’s 14-year rule.
But there has been little sign of his softer side on the campaign trail. Maduro’s rhetoric has veered from outraged - alleging opposition plots to kill him using mercenaries - to light-hearted, such as poking fun at his often-cited tale of how he was visited by Chavez’s spirit in the form of a bird.