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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections in the last quarter of this year and the exact date will be announced soon, the head of the National Electoral Council (CNE) said on Sunday.
Socialist president Nicolas Maduro is under growing pressure over the 2015 elections, especially after leftist ally and regional heavyweight Brazil on Thursday urged its neighbor to set a date.
"We can say that in the last quarter of this year we'll have the elections. We're going to announce it very soon," Tibisay Lucena said in an interview with the Televen television channel.
Luis Emilio Rondon, a CNE official, said on Friday the elections will be held at the end of November or the beginning of December.
The scheduled vote comes as a severe economic downturn pummels Maduro's popularity, leading to speculation in opposition circles that the election may not be called at all.
"Where are they getting this idea that we won't have elections? From the start of this year, we've said that this is an electoral year," Lucena said, attributing the delay to the CNE being busy organizing the primaries.
The opposition MUD coalition is slated to hold its primaries next Sunday while the ruling socialist party will choose its candidates on June 28.
Polls show that the perennially fragmented opposition has a strong chance of winning over the National Assembly, long a stronghold of the "Chavismo" movement founded by late leader Hugo Chavez.
Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Chris Reese