Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez's handpicked successor, has won a slim victory over centre-right opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, election officials announced. Capriles says he will contest the results.
Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor, has won a slim victory over centre-right opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, election officials announced.
Capriles says he will contest the results.
The contested outcome plunged the deeply divided oil-rich South American country into uncertainty, with the handpicked heir of Chavez's socialist revolution declaring victory and opposition leader Henrique Capriles demanding a recount.
Fireworks erupted after the National Electoral Council announced that the "irreversible" results showed Maduro had won with just 50.66 percent of the vote compared to 49.1 percent for Capriles -- a difference of less than 300,000 votes.
"Mission accomplished Comandante Chavez. The people fulfilled its pledge," Maduro said in front of cheering supporters at the Miraflores presidential palace.
The 50-year-old former foreign minister declared that he secured a "fair, legal, constitutional" victory. But he said he was open to an audit of the close vote tally. He is scheduled to be sworn in to complete Chavez's six-year term on Friday.
Maduro said he spoke with Capriles by telephone and that he told his rival he must recognise the outcome of the election. Both candidates had pledged during the campaign to accept the results.
But Capriles -- who had accepted defeat when Chavez beat him by 11 points in October polls -- cited a list of some 3,200 "incidents" that took place during the vote.
"Today's loser is you," he told a news conference, referring to Maduro, adding: "We won't recognise a result until every vote has been counted."
The 40-year-old state governor wants a recount of the backup paper ballots that are printed out by the electronic voting machines.
Hours earlier, Capriles claimed that there were attempts to let people vote after polling stations closed. He also accused the government of pressuring civil servants to vote for Maduro.
But National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena said the results were "irreversible" after 99 percent of electronic votes were counted, with 78.7 percent turnout.
Named by Chavez as his political heir, Maduro’s campaign capitalised on a wave of grief for the late leader, who ruled Venezuela for 14 years with a socialist revolution that made him popular among the poor while disenchanting others fed up with the weak economy.
Opinion polls had given Maduro leads of 10 to 20 points during the campaign, but Capriles energised the opposition in his second shot at the presidency after 14 years under Chavez.
Maduro has vowed to continue the oil-funded policies that cut poverty by almost half to 29 percent through popular health, education and food programs.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-04-15