CARACAS: Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles congratulated President Hugo Chavez on Sunday and accepted defeat after the leftist leader was declared the winner of the presidential election.
"To know how to win, you have to know how to lose," Capriles said at this campaign headquarters. "For me, what the people say is sacred."
"I am a democrat, through and through," he said. "I accept and respect the decision of the people."
"I want to congratulate the candidate, the president of the republic," said Capriles, wearing a jacket in the yellow, blue and red colors of the Venezuelan flag.
Chavez won 54.42 percent of the vote compared to 44.97 percent for Capriles, according to near-complete results released by the National Electoral Council.
Based on 90 percent of the results, Chavez won 7,444,082 votes, compared to 6,151,554 for Capriles. Turnout was a massive 80.94 percent of the 19 million eligible voters.
The 9.45-point margin of victory is close to the 10-point lead Chavez was given in the latest opinion poll.
Other polls had put the candidates in the virtual tie, raising hopes in the once-divided opposition that they were close to defeating Chavez.
The president had won the 2006 election with 62 percent of the vote, a 25-point lead over opposition candidate Manuel Rosales. He won his first election with 56 percent of the vote in 1998.