| 14.2°C Dublin

Chavez celebrates a narrow triumph after huge turnout

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez has won re-election and a new endorsement of his socialist project, surviving his closest race yet.

His victory came after a bitter campaign in which the opposition accused him of unfairly using Venezuela's oil wealth and his near total control of state institutions to his advantage.

Hours of late voting due to a mammoth turnout and a long wait for the results produced high tensions in the country, which has the world's largest proven oil reserves.

Finally, fireworks exploded over downtown Caracas amid a cacophony of horn-honking by elated Chavez supporters waving flags and jumping for joy outside the presidential palace.

With 90pc of votes counted, Chavez had more than 54pc of the vote to 45pc for challenger Henrique Capriles, an athletic 40-year-old former state governor who unified and energised the opposition while barnstorming across the nation.

But Capriles' promises to seriously address violent crime, streamline 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 programmes.

Chavez, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer since June 2011, 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, who responded chanting "Chavez won't go!"

It was Chavez's third re-election in nearly 14 years in office.