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Chavez, Allies Face Challenges in Elections

Voters headed to the polls in Venezuela to elect governors and mayors on Sunday as President Hugo Chavez said he would accept the victories of his political opponents, reported BBC News.

Chavez's willingness to concede the potential defeats of his political allies is a departure from his earlier, more hostile responses to opposition, threatening earlier in the year to send troops to Carabobo, a state where political opposition to the president is gaining power, reported The New York Times.

Chavez is facing a growing opposition because of high murder rates and food inflation, both of which were hot campaign issues. Additionally, Chavez's proclivity for blaming past governments and the United States for Venezuela's problems have turned some voters off.

However, Chavez and his allies do enjoy majority popular support largely because Venezuela's huge oil profits are spent on schools, subsidizing food and other social welfare programs.

"I know in my heart that Chávez cares about the poor,� said Miroslava Toro, 35, a resident of Petare, who voted for Chavez's allies.

Experts are not expecting Chavez to all but sweep the elections the way he did in 2004, but his United Socialist Party of Venezuela is expected to carry the majority of the country's 23 states.

While voting went smoothly for the most part, a few states did report minor technical glitches with electronic voting machines.