|A man stands in front of electoral posters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 6, 2012. Venezuelans will cast their ballots Sunday in a presidential election that pits incumbent President Hugo Chavez against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. (Xinhua/Guillermo Arias)
CARACAS, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelans will cast their ballots Sunday in a presidential election that pits incumbent President Hugo Chavez against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, an energetic former state governor.
Polls published recently gave Chavez, who came to power nearly 14 years ago, 47.3 percent of voting intentions and a 10-point lead over Capriles, a result that has not altered much over the past eight months of campaign. Four other candidates in the race are not likely to make any impact.
The winner in the first-past-the-post single-round race will be Venezuela's president for six years beginning in January 2013.
Chavez remains popular among the country's lower income groups, who are suspicious of the 40-year-old Capriles' apparently privileged upbringing. The opposition candidate's family, which has close links for generations with U.S. food company Nabisco, founded the firm's local unit in Venezuela.
Chavez's supporters have tried to paint the election as a choice between a bourgeois indebted to the U.S. and the incumbent's own "21st century socialism" brand of increased nationalization and rights for the poor.
Meanwhile, Capriles has also sought to convince Venezuela's poorer voters that he will administer programs developed under Chavez more effectively.
"I am going to give you the deeds to your property," he told the audience at a rally last Sunday in Caracas marking the end of his campaign, adding a state that ran a housing program for the poor did not provide them with any legal document.
However, Chavez mocked his rival's remarks as a false posture in his weekly radio and television broadcasts, describing Capriles as a "rich kid posing as a barrio boy."
Capriles' own allies have also indicated that programs for the poor could face problems.
David de Lima, a member of Capriles' Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition and a former governor of Anzoategui, said the housing program was a "great drain on the state."
Furthermore, MUD documents leaked to media last month reported plans for subsidy cuts to food programs and a price rise for public transport three times a year.
In his campaign, Chavez has redoubled his promises to the poor. At his final rally in Caracas, he said he would put in place programs to eliminate homelessness within 10 years, adding that Venezuela would top other countries in the region in education and health within his next presidential term.
By contrast, Capriles has focused on Venezuela's foreign affairs, promising a major shift in the country's foreign policy if elected, including canceling arms purchases from Russia and distancing Venezuela from Iran and Belarus.
"How have relations with Iran and Belarus benefited Venezuela? We are interested in countries that have democracies, that respect human rights, that we have an affinity with. What affinity do we have with Iran?" he said during a brief interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Analysts say Chavez may again carry the day, but questions are growing about his future.
The president, 58, spent most of his last six-year term fighting cancer. Both opponents and supporters wonder about the fate of the nation should the disease return.
Capriles has proved himself Chavez's most popular challenger and may convince Venezuela's opposition, which has been racked by infighting for most of Chavez's time, analysts say.
Betting against Chavez, however, has proved unwise in the past. He survived an attempted coup in 2002 and a recall referendum in 2004, and went on to win the general election in 2006.
At a time when most presidents in the region are fading in popularity, he remains head and shoulders above all other Latin American leaders thanks to his high prestige among Venezuelans, analysts say.