Voters in Venezuela are to decide today whether to back the reform plans of President Hugo Chavez. It is the first time Chavez goes into a vote without a clear polls lead. Surveys put the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps neck-and-neck. A ‘Yes’ would allow Chavez unlimited terms in office. Under the current constitution he must step down at the end of his second term in 2012.
It would also mean the maximum working day would be cut from eight to six hours, and social security benefits would be expanded. Street vendors and housewives would receive pensions for example.
Poor and remote voters that make up his support base will be helped to the ballot boxes, and pro-reform messages have dominated media coverage. These are seen as tactics that may give him the edge. The ‘No’ camp says the reforms are a bid to grab more power. The political opposition has been boosted by students and several defectors from the president’s ranks.