World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez forecast he would win October's election with more than 60 percent of the vote after a new poll showed on Tuesday he held a large lead over his opposition rival.
The survey taken in May by respected local pollster Datanalisis found that 43.6 percent of voters in the South American OPEC nation favored Chavez, versus 27.7 percent for the Democratic Unity coalition's candidate, Henrique Capriles.
"The opposition know we are going to win the election. We have to win it by K.O. We are going to win the election with more than 60 percent of the votes," Chavez said on state TV.
Chavez's 15.9 point lead was slightly smaller than a 17.2-point margin in the previous month's survey by Datanalisis.
The portion of undecided voters in the poll was a substantial 28.7 percent - bearing out analysts' consensus that there is a lot left to play for.
The 57-year-old Chavez, who has been battling cancer for a year, remains popular in his 14th year in power due to his oil-financed welfare spending and his enduring emotional connection with the country's poor majority.
But Capriles, 39, a state governor, is drawing big crowds on the campaign trail and exuding an image of youth and energy that he counts on to tip the balance come voting day on Oct. 7.
The Datanalisis survey was in line with most of the country's best-known pollsters, who give Chavez a double-digit lead with less than four months remaining until the ballot.
"Almost 100 days now (before the vote)," Chavez said late on Tuesday. "A gap of 20 points ... is impossible to reverse."
"All the serious polls in this country, including one that is totally opposition, give Chavez an advantage of between 16 and 25 points," Information Minister Andres Izarra told Reuters.
"And the campaign has still not started," he added, referring to the formal July 1 beginning of the election race.
Polls show Chavez big win
A smaller phone survey conducted by Datanalisis after Chavez and Capriles formally registered their candidacies last week showed Chavez with 42.6 percent, and 28.8 percent for Capriles, a slightly narrower lead of 13.8 percent.
In a research note on Tuesday, JPMorgan said the latest polls would not change the market's perception that Chavez remains the strong favorite to win the election, if he can run.
"That said, polls of all ilk seem to be showing Chavez's lead over Capriles has stabilized, and in fact may be eroding on the margin," it said.
"We now think voters are paying more attention, and going forward the market should pay more attention to the polls ... Capriles has little time to waste, but we still think it is too early to rule out a more competitive landscape as we get closer to the vote."
While Chavez appears to be in a strong position, analysts said the volatility of Venezuelan voters and the mystery over his health meant the 2012 presidential race was far from over.
After three operations to remove two cancerous tumors in the past year, and lengthy absences in Cuba for treatment, Chavez has returned to the public limelight in the past two weeks with regular appearances on state TV and in public.
Details of his condition remain a state secret.
Although he is not walking much in public, Chavez has insisted he is recovering and will crush Capriles on election day.
Capriles said some opinion polls were skewed and that his nationwide "house-by-house" campaign was gathering steam and putting him on course to unseat the socialist leader.
Another survey on Tuesday - by pollster Gis XXI, which is run by a former Chavez minister - also gave the president a healthy lead with 57.8 percent of voter intentions versus 23 percent for Capriles.
The two candidates sparred on Monday over the possibility of a face-to-face televised campaign debate.
Chavez said he would be "ashamed" to square off with a "non-entity" like Capriles, while the opposition standard-bearer said the president was better at insulting than debating.
Brigadier-General John Shapland, chief defence attache for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, raised the idea of extending Israel's anti-missile umbrella in comments to a security conference in the city
South Africa will hold general elections on May 7, new political players are expected to make gains
The planned bridge is expected to be operational within 48 months at a cost of $728 million.
Maher, Adel and Douma had been among the young activists who spearheaded Egypt's January 2011 revolution, which ended autocratic president Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule
In late January, al-Bashir presented his government partners with a proposed reform plan
Refat Chubarov asks for U.S. cooperation amid 'humanitarian and social catastrophe' in Ukraine
Khodorkovsky told university students in Kiev that giving the region the kind of autonomy from Ukraine that Scotland has inside the British state could ease Crimean demands for union with Russia
Nazarbayev, whose Central Asian state has the second largest post-Soviet economy, is a close ally of Putin and backs his plan for integration of old Soviet republics
Russian forces consolidated their hold on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on Monday, taking over a military hospital and a missile base as officials geared up for a referendum on the region's future
Swiss officials widened their measures to include Yanukovich's son, also called Viktor, and Oleksii Azarov, son of the former prime minister, Mykola Azarov
Rebel forces loyal to Machar have reportedly ransacked and burned the main hospital in Duk County in Jonglei State
Qurei added that Israel would seek to divide the holy site as it did the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron).
The government said the navy and pro-government militias had dispatched boats to stop the tanker from getting out. The rebels said any attack on the vessel would be "a declaration of war
German Foreign Minister is to visit three Baltic EU members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Tuesday to discuss recent developments in Crimea and possible sanctions against Russia.
The march passed through the city's main streets to the memorial of John Garang, widely considered a founding father of the nascent nation.
The military wing of Palestinian resistance group Hamas vowed to take action against whoever threatened Hamas