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Absent Venezuelan President Dominates State Elections

Venezuelans line up to cast their votes during a governors election in Caracas, December 16, 2012.

Venezuelans voted Sunday for 23 state governors in elections seen as a key test of the political landscape should President Hugo Chavez step down for health reasons.

Sunday's vote marks the first time President Chavez has not been able to campaign for his fellow party members because of a recurrence of cancer. The Venezuelan leader is in Cuba, where he underwent cancer surgery last week.

Officials say he has regained consciousness and is actively governing as he recovers.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate in the recent presidential election won by Mr. Chavez, is hoping to be re-elected as governor of Miranda state. If Capriles is re-elected, he would be the opposition's most likely candidate for a presidential election, if Mr. Chavez's cancer should force him from office. The president's departure would trigger an election within 30 days.

President Chavez, who was re-elected in October, has said Vice President Nicolas Maduro would take over if the president is incapacitated, and he has urged supporters to vote for Maduro if a presidential election is held.

Few medical details about the president's cancer have been released. He has had tumors removed from his pelvic region and has had chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The president has never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer.

President Chavez is scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term January 10. He has been in office since 1999.

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