Chavez ally Maduro wins in Venezuela, opposition protests

2013-04-15 09:22

Caracas – Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver who became late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s protege, narrowly won Venezuela’s presidential election yesterday, but his rival refused to accept the result and demanded a recount.

The controversy raised fears of political unrest in Venezuela, an OPEC nation of 29 million people with the world’s biggest oil reserves, although there was no immediate trouble.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he did not recognize official results giving Maduro 50.7% support versus 49.1% for him, a difference of just 235 000 ballots.

“Mr. Maduro, if you were illegitimate before, now you are even more loaded with illegitimacy,” Capriles said, alleging more than 3,000 “incidents” during the vote from gunshots to the re-opening of polling centers after their official closure.

“I didn’t fight against a candidate today, but against the whole abuse of power.”

Though opposition supporters chanted “fraud” and banged pots and pans in protest, Capriles did not call them onto the streets, and Maduro gave his support to a full recount even as he insisted his victory was clean.

The National Electoral Council said Maduro’s victory was “irreversible” and gave no indication when it might carry out a recount.

Government supporters celebrated outside the Miraflores presidential palace, where Maduro paid an emotional tribute to Chavez, the socialist leader who named him as his successor in his last speech to the nation before dying last month of cancer.

“The fight continues!” Maduro (50) told the victory rally, holding a picture of Chavez next to a crucifix and playing a recording of his voice singing Venezuela’s national anthem.

“This was the first time without the giant candidate, but he left behind his ‘son’, who is now going to be president and is going to show he is worthy of the fatherland.”

Turnout was 79%, just below the record 80% last year when an ailing Chavez won re-election for a third time.

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