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Q&A: Venezuela's presidential election

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maduro, Capriles will square off in Sunday's presidential vote
  • The election comes less than six weeks after the death of Chavez
  • More than 18.9 million Venezuelans are registered to vote
  • The economy and crime are key issues at stake

(CNN) -- Less than six weeks after President Hugo Chavez's death, Venezuelans will head to the polls Sunday to pick a new leader.

It will be the second time in just over six months that voters in the south American country have cast ballots in a presidential election.

Chavez, who ruled Venezuela for 14 years, celebrated a triumphant re-election victory in October. After his death on March 5, authorities announced new elections to select his successor.

Who's running to replace Chavez?

Nicolas Maduro, 50, is a candidate for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Henrique Capriles Radonski, 40, represents a coalition of opposition parties.

Maduro started his career as a bus driver in Caracas, rose through the ranks as a union leader and eventually became part of Chavez's inner circle. He has been the interim leader since Chavez's death, and served as vice president and foreign minister in his administration.

Army Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, who led a 1992 attempted coup, speaks to reporters on March 26, 1994, after he was freed from jail. Chavez was freed after charges were dropped against him for leading the first of two attempted coups against the government of former President Carlos Andres Perez, who was later removed from office. Army Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, who led a 1992 attempted coup, speaks to reporters on March 26, 1994, after he was freed from jail. Chavez was freed after charges were dropped against him for leading the first of two attempted coups against the government of former President Carlos Andres Perez, who was later removed from office.
Political career of Hugo Chavez
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Photos: Political career of Hugo Chavez Photos: Political career of Hugo Chavez
The race to replace Hugo Chavez
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Hugo Chavez's legacy

Capriles is the former governor of Miranda state. He lost to Chavez in October's presidential vote, coming within 10 percentage points of the longtime leader. It was a significant gap, but the closest any opposition candidate ever came to defeating Chavez during his rule.

Maduro has pledged to continue Chavez's plan to build "21st century socialism." Capriles says he pushing a more moderate approach, promising to continue social programs and improve the country's economy.

READ MORE: Maduro: From bus driver to presidential candidate

READ MORE: Capriles' second chance to defeat 'Chavismo'

What are the key issues at stake?

Crime, inflation and food shortages are key problems on the minds of many in the nation. But heated rhetoric on the campaign trail has focused more on personal attacks between the candidates and sparring over the legacy of Chavez.

No matter who wins, the question of what will happen in Venezuela without Chavez at the helm looms large over the elections.

How many people are expected to cast ballots?

More than 18.9 million Venezuelans are registered to vote in the presidential election.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council estimates that more than 100,000 Venezuelans will vote abroad at diplomatic offices in 88 countries. There are more than 37,681 Venezuelans registered to vote in the United States, according to government figures.

Who will be watching?

In addition to representatives from national organizations serving as observers, Venezuela's National Electoral Council says 170 foreigners have been invited to witness the elections. The international group includes delegations from the Union of South American Nations and the Atlanta-based Carter Center.

READ MORE: Chavez's impact on Venezuela lauded at funeral

READ MORE: What's next? Chavez's death leaves many questions

READ MORE: Hugo Chavez's death draws sympathy, anger

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