As soon as the preliminary results were announced, Chavez came out on the balcony of the presidential palace and told thousands of euphoric supporters who were braving the rain that "this is the starting-point on Venezuela's road to socialism."
"A new era is beginning for our Bolivarian national development project, and the fundamental strategic idea is the expansion of the revolution, of revolutionary democracy," he said.
He repeatedly invoked Jesus Christ and Latin America's independence heroes, especially Simon Bolivar, when urging people "not to be afraid of socialism, because our kind is basically love, humanity, solidarity, indigenous, Christian and Bolivarian: Let's build it."
"Those who voted for me, more than 60 percent of Venezuelans, did so for the Bolivarian socialist project, did so for all of you. It is the people who are in charge, and I recognize that, and I also recognize those who voted for another option," said Chavez.
Referring to the opposition, the president said "I hope they show comprehension that the Bolivarian victory was overwhelming and unassailable, and that they join in the construction of a new Venezuela."
In the August 2004 recall referendum organized by the opposition, the president received the support of 59 percent of voters, compared to 41 percent who voted for him to step down.
But at the time, the opposition cried fraud and refused to recognize the results, although they failed to prove any wrongdoing and international observers gave the referendum vote a clean bill of health.
A year ago, the main opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary elections, once again voicing unproven allegations of a lack of transparency. As a result, the governing party and its allies hold all of the 167 seats in the legislature.
During the campaign, in which he had the backing of some 40 opposition parties and groups, Rosales said he would accept the outcome announced by the CNE if the elections were "clean and transparent."
On Sunday, there were a few delays in the installation of voting stations and isolated incidents when the stations were closed, but the process overall was smooth and free of problems, according to observers from the European Union, the Organization of American States and the local watchdog group Ojo Electoral.
Voter turnout was high, with Venezuelans standing in long lines, many arriving hours before the voting stations opened. According to a preliminary estimate, at least 12 million of the 16 million registered voters came out, two million more than in the 2004 referendum.
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Albion Monitor December
4, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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