President Hugo Chavez put to rest any doubts about his masterful political touch in winning a third consecutive six-year term after a bitterly fought race against a youthful rival who has galvanized Venezuela’s opposition.

The state governor who lost Sunday’s presidential vote, Henrique Capriles, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly leveraging to his advantage Venezuela’s oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near total control of state institutions.

Capriles also narrowed Chavez’s margin of victory to his smallest yet in a presidential contest. This time, the former army paratroop commander who led a failed 1992 coup won 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles, with 98 percent of the vote counted.

In 2006, Chavez’s margin of victory was 27 points.

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