Opposition supporters protested on Monday as Venezuela’s CNE electoral authority proclaimed ruling-party candidate Nicolas Maduro the winner of the special election to choose a successor to late President Hugo Chavez, the fiery left-leaning nationalist who governed for almost 14 years.
Maduro defeated opposition standard-bearer Henrique Capriles in Sunday’s contest by a margin of 50.75 percent to 48.97 percent amid a turnout of 79 percent, CNE chair Tibisay Lucerna said.
The erstwhile vice president - Chavez’s designated successor - will serve until January 2019, she said.
Capriles, however, refused to concede and demanded a vote-by-vote recount of every ballot cast.
The Venezuelan electoral system, praised by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as among the best in the world, relies on electronic voting with a hardcopy backup to provide a paper trail.
The CNE automatically reviews a random sample of 53 percent of the ballots to detect discrepancies between the electronic tabulation and the paper records.
Demanding a 100-percent recount, Capriles asked the CNE not to officially proclaim Maduro as president-elect.
Saying that for Maduro to accept such a proclamation ahead of a full recount would make him an “illegitimate” president, Capriles called on his supporters to bang pots and pans if the ceremony took place.
Soon after the event at the CNE began, the clanging of pots and pans could be heard from some parts of Caracas, while Capriles supporters gathered in the capital municipality of Chacao, a traditional opposition stronghold.
The 50-year-old Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, garnered only 265,000 more votes than Capriles.
Chavez, who died March 5 after a long battle with cancer, defeated the 40-year-old Capriles 55.5 percent to 44.39 percent in the Oct. 7 presidential election, a difference of 1.6 million votes.
Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Spain for consultations in response to remarks by the Spanish foreign minister about the Andean nation’s election.
Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo “implicitly questioned the firm and clear results” issued by Venezuela’s CNE electoral authority, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on state television.
“The Spanish foreign minister says we have to wait to see who the winner is. No, there is a winner here: Nicolas Maduro. He won the presidency of the Bolivarian Republic by the will of the Venezuelan people,” Jaua said.
Venezuela needs to conduct a rapid recount of the ballots to end the current “provisional” situation, Garcia-Margallo said earlier Monday, advocating dialogue after an election that confirmed a “very strong polarization” in Venezuela.
Jaua also expressed regret that the Organization of American States publicly backed Capriles’ demand for a recount of all the ballots cast.
The OAS has no standing “to cast doubt on the results the Venezuela people emitted,” the foreign minister said.
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