Thousands of Peronists danced in the streets early Monday to celebrate Carlos Menem's election to the presidency - the return to power of the party of labor and the working poor.

Sunday's election marked Argentina's first transfer of power between civilian governments in 61 years and capped a long comeback for the populist Peronists, who had been banned for 25 of the past 34 years.With 90 percent of the vote counted, Menem received 7,206,916, or 47.2 percent, to the 5,663,175, or 37 percent garnered by Menem's strongest competitor, Eduardo Angeloz of the ruling Radical Civic Union. There were 12 candidates in all.

Those votes earned Menem 309 of the 600 Electoral College votes, eight more than needed, according to projections by the independent news agency, Diarios y Noticias.

Angeloz, Menem's former law school classmate, conceded defeat.

"I've defeated an adversary, but I've regained a friend," Menem said.

Menem, the charismatic 58-year-old governor of La Rioja province, called for national unity immediately after declaring victory.

The campaign had been divisive and he must cope with a country in economic decline and a restive military.

"I am not more capable than anyone else, but I'm not less capable," Menem said. "The important thing is to get the country moving."

The Interior Ministry estimated that 82 percent of the 20 million eligible voters cast ballots.

Voters also chose a vice president, half the members of the Chamber of Deputies, one senator, legislatures in 14 of the nation's 22 provinces and several thousand municipal officials.

In Sunday elections, Peronists took 66 of the 127 seats at stake in the National Chamber of Deputies and with 124 seats total, Peronists were just four seats short of a majority, according to Diarios y Noticias.

The Peronists already control the biggest bloc in the Senate and most provincial legislatures and governorships.