Venezuela'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."
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.
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.
"To know how to win, you have to know how to lose," Capriles said at this campaign headquarters, putting those fears to rest. "For me, what the people say is sacred."
"I am a democrat, through and through," the 40-year-old former state governor said.
"Viva Venezuela, viva the great fatherland, viva the Bolivarian Revolution!" leftist Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa tweeted. Congratulations came from Argentine President Cristina Kirchner too.
Weakened by a bout with cancer, the 58-year-old Chavez stepped up campaigning in the last week of the race, warning that Capriles would undo his popular social "missions" for the poor.
Sitting on the world's biggest proven crude oil deposits, Chavez has used petro-dollars to build a network of regional allies and secure the loyalty of poor Venezuelans dependent on the generosity of his social programs.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by moqawama.org