(Updates with vote count in second paragraph.)
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Henrique Capriles Radonski won a landslide victory in Venezuela’s first ever presidential primary to challenge President Hugo Chavez in October’s elections, the head of the opposition’s electoral council said.
Miranda state Governor Capriles garnered 1.8 million of the 2.8 million valid votes counted, Teresa Albanes said today on Globovision. Pablo Perez won 867,000 votes and Maria Corina Machado had 103,000.
“Capriles, my good friend, count on me, you’ll be the next president of Venezuela,” Perez said in Caracas on Globovision. “There’s been a new leadership born.”
The opposition says the primary demonstrates their unity after years of bickering and political blunders as they seek to break Chavez’s 13-year hold on power in the Oct. 7 vote. Capriles has vowed to maintain economic stability by keeping some of the welfare benefits of Chavez’s “21st century socialism” and only gradually dismantling state control.
The winning candidate said Feb. 7 that participation of 10 percent of the 18 million Venezuelans registered to vote would give the opposition momentum as it starts an eight-month campaign to return to power. The vote exceeded that figure by more than 1 million.
“It resembles a national election more than a primary,” Albanes said, according to a statement.
Hundreds of Capriles supporters gathered outside his campaign headquarters in Caracas waving Venezuelan flags while fireworks went off ahead of his victory speech.
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