Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, won a razor-thin victory in Sunday’s special presidential election, edging the opposition’s leader by only about 300,000 votes, electoral officials announced. His challenger, Henrique Capriles, declared that he wouldn’t accept the results and called for a full recount. Maduro’s stunningly close victory came after a campaign in which the winner promised to carry on Chavez’s self-proclaimed socialist revolution while Capriles’ main message was that Chavez’s 14-year regime put Venezuela on the road to ruin.
Maduro, acting president since Chavez’s death, held a double-digit advantage in opinion polls just two weeks ago, but electoral officials said he got just 50.7 percent of the votes to 49.1 percent for Capriles with nearly all ballots counted.
Chavistas set off fireworks and blasted car horns as they cruised downtown Caracas in jubilation.
In a victory speech, Maduro told a crowd outside the presidential palace that his victory was further proof that Chavez “continues to be invincible, that he continues to win battles.”
At Capriles’ campaign headquarters, people hung their heads quietly as the results were announced by an electoral council stacked with government loyalists. Many started crying; others just stared at TV screens in disbelief.
But Capriles emerged later to angrily reject the official vote totals.