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Fate of Hugo Chavez's presidency lies in hands of Venezuelan voters

Rodrigo Arangua / AFP - Getty Images

People line up to cast their vote at a polling station in Caracas on Oct. 7. Venezuelans went to the polls Sunday in the toughest election President Hugo Chavez has faced in almost 14 years in power after fresh-faced rival Henrique Capriles electrified the opposition.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez arrives to a polling station during the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 7.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles is mobbed by supporters after he voted in the presidential election pitting him against President Hugo Chavez, in Caracas on Oct. 7.

The life of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez from his rise as a lieutenant colonel after his failed coup attempt in 1992.

NBC News staff and wire services -- As Venezuelans streamed to the polls, President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he will accept the results of the country's election, whether he wins or loses.

"We'll respect the results, whatever they are," he told reporters after casting his vote in Caracas. He also said voters were turning out in massive numbers in Sunday's election.   

The Venezuelan leader is running against opposition leader Henrique Capriles in a vote widely viewed as the toughest electoral challenge of Chavez's nearly 14-year-old presidency.  Chavez was greeted at the polling center by American actor Danny Glover and Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu.

The vote is an all-or-nothing contest between two camps that deeply distrust each other and question whether the other side will respect the results of the election. The stakes couldn't be higher. 

If Chavez wins, he will have a free hand to dominate Venezuela for six more years on top of the 14 years he has already been in office, letting him push for an even bigger state role in the economy and cement his legacy.

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Sharon Steinmann / AP

A man and woman ride a motorcycle decorated with a Venezuelan flag near a polling station during the presidential election in the 23 de Enero neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 7.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Venezuelan presidential honor guards line up before casting their vote during the presidential elections in Caracas on Oct. 7.

Ramon Espinosa / AP

People wait to vote in the presidential election at a polling station in Caracas, Venezuela, on Oct. 7. President Hugo Chavez is running against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

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