President Hugo Chavez won re-election on Sunday, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles, Venezuela's electoral council said. With most votes counted, Chavez had more than 54% of the vote, and Capriles had 45%, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena said. Turnout was 81% of the nearly 19 million registered voters.
It was Chavez's third re-election victory in nearly 14 years in office. The victory gives Chavez another six-year term to cement his legacy and press more forcefully for a transition to socialism in the country with the world's largest proven oil reserves.
Fireworks exploded in downtown Caracas, and Chavez's supporters celebrated waving flags and jumping for joy outside the presidential palace.
Chavez won more than 7.4 million votes, beating Capriles by more than 1.2 million votes, Lucena said.
“Thank you my god. Thank you to everyone,” Mr Chávez said via his Twitter account. “Thanks to my beloved people!! Long live Venezuela!!!!”
Capriles, 40, a former state governor, accepted defeat graciously. “To know how to win you have to know how to lose. The will of the Venezuelan people is sacred.”
I am a democrat, through and through, he said. I accept and respect the decision of the people.
I want to congratulate the candidate, the president of the republic, said Capriles, wearing a jacket in the yellow, blue and red colours of the Venezuelan flag.
At many polling places, voters began lining up hours before polls opened at dawn, some snaking blocks in the baking Caribbean sun. Some shaded themselves with umbrellas. Vendors grilled meat and some people drank beer.
Chavez's critics said the president has inflamed divisions by labelling his opponents fascists, ''Yankees and neo-Nazis,” while Chavez's loyalists alleged Capriles would halt generous government programs that assist the poor.
Violence flared sporadically during the campaign, including shootings and rock-throwing during rallies and political caravans. Two Capriles supporters were shot to death in the western state of Barinas last weekend.
Troops guarded thousands of voting centres across the country.
With the election behind the main challenge for President Chavez is to keep his promises probably with not a so bountiful treasury and for the opposition to remain united as it did during the presidential election, helping to show that the former paratrooper has many vulnerable spots, plus the overhanging mystery about his cancer.