Maduro to lead Venezuela

defeated candidate calls for recount

CARACAS — Defeated Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has demanded a recount of votes, rejecting the election of Hugo Chavez’s successor as “illegitimate”.

Capriles, who lost by a very narrow margin, said there were more than 300,000 incidents from yesterday’s poll that needed to be examined.

Socialist Nicolas Maduro has called for the results to be respected.

The election was called after Chavez’s death from cancer on March 5.

Maduro, a former bus driver whom Chavez had named as his preferred heir, won 50.7 per cent of the vote against 49.1 per cent for Capriles.

The National Electoral Council said the results, which it announced last night, were “irreversible”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban leader Raul Castro were among the first heads of state to congratulate Maduro on his win.

As the news of Maduro’s victory emerged, celebrations erupted in the capital, Caracas.

Thousands of jubilant supporters took to the streets, dancing, singing and blasting car horns, while fireworks lit up the night sky. Opposition voters banged pots and pans in protest.

Speaking outside the presidential palace, Maduro told crowds that the result was “just, legal and constitutional”.

He said his election showed Hugo Chavez “continues to be invincible, that he continues to win battles”.

Maduro, who was wearing a tracksuit top in the colours of the Venezuelan flag, said he had spoken to Capriles on the phone, and that he would allow an audit of the election result.

He called for those who had not voted for him to “work together” for the country.

But Maduro’s margin of victory was far narrower than that achieved by Chavez at elections last October, when he beat Capriles by more than 10 percentage points.

Almost immediately one member of the National Electoral Council who does not have government sympathies called on the authorities to carry out a recount by hand, a call later echoed by Capriles himself. (BBC)

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