Chavez holds slim poll lead before Venezuela vote
CARACAS Feb 14 (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez holds a slim lead in opinion polls ahead of Sunday's referendum, which would allow him to run for re-election, but many Venezuelans remain undecided how to vote, pollsters said.
The anti-U.S. socialist who wants to govern for at least another decade in the OPEC nation has maintained a steady advantage of several points for the past few weeks in his second bid to change the constitution with a referendum.
Two pollsters on Saturday -- Datanalisis, which works for the public and private sector, and Consultores 30.11, which works for the government -- gave the 'Yes' vote a lead of between 5 points and 7 points. Chavez has been widening his lead slightly since January, the pollsters said.
Both surveys conducted during the final week of the campaign also said more than 10 percent of Venezuelans who planned to vote still had not made up their minds, making the outcome hard to predict.
"At the end of the campaign, there is a significant consistency in the data from the main Venezuelan pollsters," Datanalisis's Luis Vicente Leon told Reuters. "(But) given that the percentage of undecided voters is bigger than the difference between the 'Yes' and 'No' votes, it is very difficult to project the result."
In 2007, Chavez narrowly lost a referendum on a raft of constitutional changes, including allowing him to run for re-election.
On Saturday, Chavez said he lost in 2007 because of a weak get-out-the-vote effort, which he has now overhauled, making him "infinitely more" confident of victory on Sunday.
If he does win, the Cuba ally who calls capitalism an evil and has nationalized swaths of the economy can stay in office as long he keeps winning elections. He first won office in 1998 and has vowed to rule for decades.
If he loses on Sunday, he should leave office in 2013. But most political analysts expect the ex-soldier who once sought power in a coup would seek another way to change the election rules.
The Datanalisis poll showed 45 percent of survey respondents backed the referendum and 38 percent opposed it. It surveyed 1,260 voters Feb. 3-9 and had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
The Consultores 30.11 gave the 'Yes' vote a lead of 46 points to 41 points. It surveyed 2,120 voters Feb. 6 to 11 and the poll's margin of error was 2.1 percentage points.
(Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Writing by Saul Hudson)
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