Chavez wins another six-year term in Venezuela
CARACAS - Agence France-Presse
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez waves the national flag while celebrating from a balcony at Miraflores Palace in Caracas October 7, 2012. Reuters photoVenezuela's Hugo Chavez shrugged off cancer and a unified opposition on Sunday to triumph yet again at the ballot box and win another six-year mandate to pursue his oil-funded socialist revolution.
His rival, 40-year-old Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, was gracious in defeat, saying, "I accept and respect the decision of the people," but it was a bitter pill for the opposition and many in the divided country to swallow.
Fireworks erupted across Caracas as "Chavistas" celebrated in front of the presidential palace after near-complete official results showed Chavez winning 54.42 percent of votes compared to 44.97 percent for Capriles.
"Thank you my dear people!!! Viva Venezuela!!!" Chavez, in power for almost 14 years, wrote on Twitter after the National Electoral Council announced the score. "Thank you God! Thank you to all of you!" The result after a massive 80.94 percent turnout showed a far tougher contest than Chavez has endured so far to his 14-year tenure. He won the 2006 election with 62 percent of the vote and by a margin of 25 points.
With 90 percent of ballots counted, Chavez won 7,444,082 votes, compared to 6,151,554 for Capriles -- highlighting the deep divisions in the oil-rich South American nation.
Chavez had held a 10-point lead in the latest opinion poll before Sunday's vote, but other surveys had indicated a statistical dead heat.
Election experts said the electronic voting system was reliable, but suspicions ran high that whoever lost would not concede defeat.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters assembled before the announcement in front of the Miraflores presidential palace, setting off firecrackers, honking horns and holding signs as his campaign song blared.
Addressing thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of his Miraflores presidential residence, Chavez sang the national anthem and vowed to be a better president after defeating opposition rival Henrique Capriles.
"Viva Venezuela! Viva the fatherland!" exulted the leftist leader. "The battle was perfect and the victory was perfect." "I want to include everybody, including sectors of the opposition," Chavez, wearing a red shirt, said after the opposition's best election result yet against the leftist firebrand.
Brandishing the sword of Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar, Chavez pledged to press ahead with the socialist revolution that has antagonized opponents at home and abroad.
"Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century," he said. "I commit to being a better president than I've been these past few years."