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Chavez Allies Win Majority in Venezuela Local Elections

Venezuela election officials say President Hugo Chavez's allies won a majority in Sunday's election, while the opposition made important gains.

The electoral agency says that voter turnout was 65 percent for the fiercely contested election. Mr. Chavez's socialist party won control of 17 of the country's 22 states. Authorities say the opposition won the other five, including the country's two most populous -- Miranda and oil-rich Zulia.

Election officials say the Caracas mayor's office shifted from a supporter of the president to the opposition.

Mr. Chavez's brother, Adan, won a tight race to succeed their father as governor in the president's home state of Barinas.

Twenty-two governorships and more than 300 mayoral posts were at stake in the vote.

Turnout was heavy Sunday. Lines snaked around some polling place hours after closing time.

In the last regional vote four years ago, Mr. Chavez's allies won all but two of the 22 states. But analysts had predicted a smaller win this year as voters' main concerns are high crime rates, inflation and government corruption.

Last year, Mr. Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to seek re-election indefinitely.

As he campaigned for his fellow party members, he said Sunday's vote could decide the future of socialism as well as the future of Hugo Chavez.

President Chavez has been in office since 1999.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.