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Chavez's party dominates Venezuela regional elections

Caracas, Dec 18 (IANS/EFE) President Hugo Chavez's leftist PSUV party took 20 of 23 state governorships in Venezuelan regional elections, but opposition standard-bearer Henrique Capriles retained power in the central state of Miranda.

Only around 54 percent of eligible voters turned out for Sunday's balloting, which came two months after the cancer-stricken Chavez won another six-year term.

One of the few consolations left to the opposition is the victory of Capriles - who lost the Oct 7 presidential election to Chavez - over former Vice President Elias Jaua in Miranda.

The PSUV snatched four governorships from the MUD opposition coalition.

PSUV campaign chief Jorge Rodriguez said the outcome was "mainly a victory for Chavez" and a "gift" for the president as he recovers in Cuba from his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.

Capriles expressed satisfaction at his win in Miranda but not about the overall result of the elections and slammed the government for what he considered the use of Chavez's illness for electoral purposes.

"You never heard anything like plans or proposals from government candidates. All they did was take advantage of the circumstances and ask people to go out and vote for the health of our president," he said.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, for example, asked at an election day press conference for everyone to go to the polls so as "not to fail" Chavez, which led a member of the National Electoral Council, Vicente Diaz, to demand an end to the press conference for what he considered "a clear violation of electoral law".

--IANS/EFE

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