Polls have opened in Venezuela’s crucial presidential election that will determine the South American country’s next leader following the death of Hugo Chavez.
Polling centres opened at 1030 GMT on Sunday and were expected to remain open until 2230 GMT.
Supporters of Chavez’s hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro showed their commitment to ensuring he gets the presidential seat as they were up early and many of them had already started queuing up to vote as early as 4am local time.
Maduro has to beat his younger rival Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state, who is promising change in a polarised country, if he would have a chance of filling Chavez’s shoes. They have both urged supporters to vote early and be on alert for fraud.
Venezuelans were called out to vote in the early hours of Sunday morning as trumpets were blown, and fireworks set off in Caracas.
Despite being the acting president and the known choice of widely loved departed former president Hugo Chavez, Maduro said on Saturday that he would recognise the election results, whatever they might be.
“If I win, it’s welcomed and I will accept it with humility, if I lose, I will accept it with the same humility and with the values of Chavez,” he said.
“Peace is what we want, peace and respect to democracy and to values.”
In an interview with Teresa Bo, Capriles, who is running his second presidential campaign in less than a year, said the race had not been a fair one.
“The candidate of the government uses the presidential plane, all the military, all the ministries,” he said.
“Venezuela’s oil company pays for the campaign and all the state media is supporting Maduro. This is unconstitutional.”
This is Capriles’ second presidential campaign in less than a year. In October 2012, he ran against Chavez and lost by over 10 percent. Chavez died on March 5 without being sworn into office, and another presidential election was called.