Caracas: A majority of Venezuelans voted in favour of President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, giving him six more years to govern in his fourth term in a row.
Chavez, who spent heavily in the months before the vote, defeated his challenger Henrique Capriles by a margin of over 10% votes, as compared to a 27 percent vote points in 2006.
Out of 90% of the votes counted, Chavez won 54% of the vote as against Henrique Capriles who garnered 45 percent votes, National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena announced.
Chavez won more than 7.4 million votes, beating Capriles by more than 1.2 million votes, Lucena said.
The voter turnout recorded by country’s electoral council was 81%, one of the largest turnouts in years which was evident as people stood in long queues to vote and voting time was extended beyond the scheduled closing time at some polling stations.
Chavez won this re-election for the third time in last 14 years in office although he had won by a larger margin of 27 percent vote points in last election in 2006 when he had won 63 percent of the votes.
Celebration was in the air following Chavez’s victory as his supporters had thronged outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, waving flags and bursting crackers.
Riding high on the victory, Chavez rallied thousands of supporters from a balcony of the presidential palace, holding up a sword that once belonged to 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar.
"The revolution has triumphed!" Chavez told the crowd, saying his supporters "voted for socialism."
"Viva Venezuela! Viva the fatherland! The battle was perfect and the victory was perfect," he said.
The crowd replied in unison, "Chavez won`t go!"
The 40-year-old opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, admitted defeat and congratulated Chavez but told his supporters not to feel defeated.
"We have planted many seeds across Venezuela and I know that these seeds are going to produce many trees," he told supporters in a speech late Sunday.
Capriles, a wiry former governor affectionately called "Skinny" by supporters, infused the opposition with new optimism. Opinion polls pointed to him giving Chavez his closest election contest ever.
Capriles` promises to seriously address violent crime that has spun out of control, streamline a patronage-bloated bureaucracy and end rampant corruption proved inadequate against Chavez`s charisma, well-oiled political machine and a legacy of putting Venezuela`s poor first with generous social welfare programs.
Chavez will now have a freer hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy and continue populist programs. He pledged before the vote to make a stronger push for socialism in the next term. He`s also likely to further limit dissent and deepen friendships with US rivals.
Chavez`s critics say the president has inflamed divisions by labeling his opponents "fascists," ``Yankees" and "neo-Nazis," and it`s likely hard for many of his opponents to stomach another six years of the loquacious and conflictive leader.
Chavez had announced in June 2011 that he had cancer in pelvic region but now says he is free of cancer after he had two surgeries and bouts of chemotherapy sessions.
With Agency Inputs