Venezuelans went to the polls both in the country and abroad on Sunday in reportedly massive numbers to decide who will govern Venezuela for the next six years on a sunny day marked by both calm and expectation, given that President Hugo Chavez, a leftist firebrand who has been in office for 14 years, was facing a stiff challenge from Henrique Capriles. The polls were open from 6 a.m. (1030 GMT) to 6 p.m. (2230 GMT), although the National Elections Council (CNE) said that Venezuelans in line at that later hour who had not yet cast their ballots would be allowed to do so. Some 19 million people are eligible to vote in the election.
Nearly 100 percent of polling places opened on time and were operating normally, CNE chairwoman Tibisay Lucena said around midday. “We are opening the precincts, ready for the voters to begin this wonderful day, which is a celebration of democracy,” Lucena told the official VTV network.
The CNE plans to begin releasing results once a clear trend exists as the vote count proceeds, but there is no timeframe for reporting figures. The release of poll results or exit poll numbers is prohibited until the CNE makes its official announcement. By all accounts, there was a massive turnout of voters in Caracas and some people had to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots, bringing bottles of water, newspapers to pass the time and even folding chairs to give themselves a more comfortable way to wait their turn to vote.