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Poll reveals big lead for Chavez

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has a double-digit lead over the opposition's presidential hopeful - but a quarter of voters have not committed to either candidate, according to a poll.

The survey released by the Caracas polling firm Datanalisis said nearly 45% of those polled said they would vote for Mr Chavez, while 31% supported Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles. About 25% are undecided.

"Those undecided ones are going to indicate the trend in the future," said Luis Vicente Leon, the polling firm's president.

Mr Chavez, who has been in office since 1999, is seeking another six-year term in the October 7 election.

The survey questioned about 1,300 people in Venezuela between February 29 and March 7, and had a margin of error of nearly three percentage points, Mr Leon said.

He said the percentage of people expressing no choice for a candidate had increased since the firm's previous poll a month earlier, when almost 50% said they would vote for Mr Chavez and 35% backed Mr Capriles.

Mr Leon said the monthly poll is paid for by about 300 clients that include both private businesses and state companies as well as individuals. He said some of the clients include political leaders, but he did not identify them.

About 62% of respondents said they viewed Mr Chavez's performance favourably, compared to 50% who had a favourable view of Mr Capriles' performance as governor.

Poll results have varied widely in Venezuela recently, with each political camp touting contradicting figures. Government media has reported on polls indicating Mr Chavez is ahead of Mr Capriles by as much as 30 points. Last week, the polling firm Consultores 21 released a survey indicating Mr Chavez and Mr Capriles are running head-to-head.

The 57-year-old leftist president has vowed to overcome cancer and win the October vote. Mr Chavez appeared on state television after returning home from a five-day round of radiation therapy in Cuba, where he has been undergoing cancer treatment. "Thanks to God, I've withstood the treatment very well," Mr Chavez said. "Let's hope that's the case next time.

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