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Chavez re-elected with 54 percent of vote

Incumbent Hugo Chavez won the majority of votes in Venezuela's presidential election on Sunday. The long-time leader is due to serve as president for six more years.

Venezuela's National Electoral Council announced President Chavez as the winner late on Sunday after a day of high voter turnout that kept polls open later than expected.

Chavez received about 54 percent of the vote, according to Council President Tibisay Lucena. His opponent, Henrique Capriles, lost with only 44 percent of the votes.

Sunday's announcement came after Venezuelans continued to wait in line to vote several hours after polls already officially closed at 6 p.m. (22:30 GMT), delaying the highly anticipated conclusion of a close race.

Initial reports indicated that a high percentage of nearly 19 million registered voters turned out on Sunday, but could not give an exact number.

After voting earlier on Sunday, Chavez's opponent, Henrique Capriles told supporters he would honor the outcome of the election.

"Whatever the people decide today is sacred," Capriles said. "To know how to win, you have to know how to lose."

Watch video 00:54

Chavez wins re-election in Venezuela

Capriles served as the state governor of Miranda prior to running for president and has never lost an election. He reportedly wore his lucky shoes on Sunday.

By winning the election, President Hugo Chavez - who has already served 14 years as Venezuela's leader - will begin a new term of six years.

Chavez wins a close race

Late opinion polls had differed over who held the lead in the race for the presidency. Most gave Chavez the edge, but two others said his 40 year old opponent was the frontrunner.

Hugo Chavez and his opponent Henrique Capriles - the self-described David fighting Goliath - attacked each other during their campaigns by appealing to the everyday needs of their supporters.

But while Capriles focused on rising crime rates and alleged cronyism in the allocation of state funds, Chavez told voters that Capriles was a right-wing threat who would undo his socialist policies, such as education and health reforms.

The 58-year-old Chavez, who apparently fought off a bout with cancer this year, has nationalized several key industries including the country's crucial oil producer PDVSA. Venezuela has the world's largest crude oil reserves.

The former army officer, mentored by Fidel Castro of Cuba, is among the sharpest critics of the US in South America. In the December 2006 elections, he comfortably won over 60 percent of the vote.

kms/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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