Venezuela's Chavez looks to woo youth vote

President steps up campaign to attract under 30s, as he faces younger contender Henrique Capriles in October election.

    Hugo Chavez is stepping up his re-election campaign ahead of Venezuela's presidential election in two weeks time.

    The president remains confident he can win another term, but has also been making strides to appeal to a key pool of swing voters made up of the under-30 age group.

    Chavez, 58, faces tough competition from his younger rival, Henrique Capriles, who at just 40-years old, has found a strong following among female voters.

    While recent polls show everything from a tie to a double-digit lead for Chavez, they also reveal between 10 and 20 per cent of voters are either undecided or would not say who they supported.

    Youth vote

    The opposition-aligned organisation Voto Joven, or Youth Vote, estimated that more than a third of registered voters were between the ages of 18 and 25, making them a key target for both camps.

    Chavez must appear fresh to appeal to this key group as he seeks a third presidential term that would extend his time in office to two decades.

    The president has gone to great lengths to appeal to younger voters. Instead of his military fatigues, he has been wearing casual blue jackets, and occasionally a yellow scarf.

    He has also appeared on television singing and dancing, even at times slinging an electric bass guitar over his shoulder and pretending to play to the beat.

    "If you want a nation, stand with me," the president shouted to thousands of supporters at a rally of the youth wing of his party outside Caracas this week.

    Singing with a band, the president then belted out the lyrics to his campaign jingle: "Chavez, heart of the people!"

    Nonetheless, he has appeared at fewer rallies and has at times looked noticeably bloated and aged, fuelling doubts about his health after more than a year of cancer treatment.

    The presidential vote is set to take place on October 7.


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