Top of the Morning: Hugo Chavez Wins Re-Election; Philippines Signs Peace Deal With Militants; Turkey-Syria Border Skirmish

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

Hugo Chavez Re-elected President of Venezuela

Hugo Chavez faced his toughest election yet, but vows to respect the results. “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has hailed a ‘perfect victory,’ after defeating Henrique Capriles to secure a fourth term in office. Mr Chavez won 54% of the vote, the electoral council announced, with turnout at about 81%. Brandishing a replica of the sword of independence hero Simon Bolivar, he pledged Venezuela would continue its “march towards democratic socialism”. But he also vowed to engage opponents and to be a “better president”. Noisy celebrations among Chavez supporters erupted across the capital, Caracas, following the announcement of the result. Mr Chavez addressed them from the balcony of the presidential palace. ‘Truthfully, this has been the perfect battle, a democratic battle. Venezuela will continue its march toward the democratic socialism of the 21st century.’ But Mr Chavez also accepted that there had been a significant opposition vote, reducing his victory margin from 27 points in 2006 to just 10 points over Mr Capriles. Almost all of the votes have now been counted, with Mr Chavez securing 54.66% to Mr Capriles’ 44.73%.Chavez held onto the presidency by winning 54% of the vote.” (BBC

Philippines Signs Peace Deal With Militants

A long running insurgency may be coming to an end. “President Benigno S. Aquino III announced Sunday that the Philippine government had reached a deal with a major rebel group that officials hope will reduce the persistent violence in the southern part of the country. ‘This framework agreement paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao,’ Mr. Aquino said. The deal with the rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought a war of independence for more than three decades, is the first step in what is expected to be a long, complex process of working through disputes that have lasted for centuries between the Christian-dominated national government and the predominantly Muslim residents of the southern island of Mindanao. If the agreement succeeds in significantly reducing violence in Mindanao, it will be a historic achievement and a major political victory for Mr. Aquino, who has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for some of his legislative proposals. Every Philippine president since the 1970s has tried to address the violence in Mindanao, which has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.” (NYT

5 Straight Days of Turkey-Syria Border Skirmishes

After a Syrian shell landed in a remote part of Turkey, the Turkish military targeted Syrian military positions with artillery fire. “Turkey and Syria fired artillery and mortars across their volatile border for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday, in one of the most serious and prolonged flare-ups of violence along the frontier. The exchange of fire stoked fears that Syria’s civil war will escalate into a regional conflagration drawing in NATO member Turkey, once an ally of President Bashar Assad but now a key supporter of the rebels fighting to topple him. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had warned on Saturday that Ankara would respond forcefully to each errant Syrian shell that lands on Turkish soil. Ankara’s warning was coupled by an apparent diplomatic push by the Turkish leadership to promote Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a possible figure to head a transitional administration to end the conflict in the country. In an interview with Turkish state television TRT Saturday, Davutoglu said that al-Sharaa was a figure “whose hands are not contaminated in blood” and therefore acceptable to Syrian opposition groups. It was not clear whether the Turkish stance was coordinated with other allies, but the candid remarks by Davutoglu suggested some consensus might be emerging over a future role for him.” (CBS