President Hugo Chavez won re-election by a wide margin Sunday, according to official results, giving him another six years to solidify his self-styled social revolution and further his crusade to counter US influence.
With 78 percent of voting stations reporting, Chavez had 61 percent to 38 percent for challenger Manuel Rosales, said Tibisay Lucena, head of the country's elections council. Chavez had nearly 6 million votes versus 3.7 million for Rosales, according to the partial tally.
Turnout was 62 percent, according to an official bulletin of results, making the lead insurmountable.
Supporters of Chavez celebrated in the streets Sunday even as polling stations remained open. Chavez backers cruised downtown Caracas in caravans honking horns, shouting "Chavez isn't going anywhere" and setting off fireworks.
A Chavez win would solidify his self-styled socialist revolution and further boost his campaign to create a counterweight to US influence globally. Rosales has accused Chavez of edging Venezuela toward one-man rule.
A top Rosales adviser, Teodoro Petkoff, said Sunday evening that the voting process "was carried out in a satisfactory manner."
He said some irregularities had occurred - including attempts to remove ballots without first permitting an audit - but that most were resolved. Another member of the Rosales camp had accused pro-Chavez soldiers of reopening closed polling stations and busing voters to them.
Since he first won office in 1998, Chavez has increasingly dominated all branches of government and his allies now control congress, state offices and the judiciary. He has called US President George W. Bush the devil, allied himself with Iran and influenced elections across the region.
Chavez also has used Venezuela's oil wealth to his political advantage. He has channeled oil profits toward multibillion-dollar programs for the poor including subsidized food, free university education and cash benefits for single mothers. He has helped allies from Cuba to Bolivia with oil and petrodollars.
Alicia Primera, a 54-year-old housewife, was among voters so passionate about the choice that they camped out overnight in voting queues.
"I voted for Chavez previously. I cried for him," Primera said. "Now I'm crying for him to leave. He's sown a lot of hate with his verbiage."
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