Carlos Andres Perez, who led a wealthy Venezuela during the oil boom of the 1970s, was re-elected president after 10 years out of office on a promise to return his debt-ridden country to prosperity.
Voters on Sunday remembered the good times rather than the scandal that almost had Perez impeached in his first administration.The latest returns showed Perez, of the left-of-center Democratic Action Party, with 51.4 percent of the vote and Eduardo Fernandez of the Social Christian Party with 38.6 percent. The rest of the vote was shared by 20 minor party candidates.
The results did not represent all the votes cast, but the Electoral Council declared Perez the winner after early returns.
Perez campaigned with almost messianic fervor on his ability to revive the economy of this oil-producing nation despite a volatile oil market. A charismatic figure popular with the working class, Perez favors tighter state control over the economy. Fernandez favors a freer market.
"This is the point of departure for building a bigger Venezuela. The next government must take advantage of our situation to form the bases for future growth," the president-elect said on national television.
Fernandez, 48, conceded defeat minutes after the first returns were announced.
Perez, 66, succeeds Jaime Lusinchi, also of the Democratic Action Party, as Venezuela's leader for the next five years.
The constitution limits presidents to a single five-year term, after which they must wait a decade before seeking re-election.
No official tallies were given on the outcome of voting for the all-new National Congress of 182 deputies and 44 senators, but private television networks projected the governing party would win 48.6 percent and the Social Christians 26.3 percent in both houses.
Perez set as his first task renegotiating with reluctant foreign banks - mostly U.S. - the nation's $33 billion debt, the fourth-largest in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.