CARACAS, Venezuela — Henrique Capriles Radonski, a young state governor, has won Venezuela’s opposition primary and will take on President Hugo Chávez in what is likely to be the country’s most tightly-fought presidential election since the socialist came to power 13 years ago.
Just under three million Venezuelans turned out to vote on Sunday, surpassing all analysts’ expectations. The figure may worry Chávez as the candidates have finally shown some unity, each backing Capriles as he took to a makeshift stage outside his office in a wealthy district of Caracas.
Basking in 62 percent of the total vote, Capriles spoke to Venezuelans at the victory rally late into the evening, backed by fireworks and a lively party atmosphere.
“The future of Venezuela won today,” he said. “We've come to build a future for all Venezuelans.”
After a passionate speech, the 39-year-old brought out former foe Pablo Pérez, the governor of Zulia state, who came second with 30 percent of the vote and Maria Corina Machado who took 4 percent of the vote.
Also present was Leopoldo López who, despite immense popularity, pulled out of the race just weeks ago and shifted his considerable momentum to Capriles.
The group must remain united over the coming months in order to maintain the momentum to take on a president — who has defied a coup attempt, an oil strike and cancer — looking to win his third, six-year term with huge popular support.