Venezuela's election authority on Monday formally proclaimed Nicolas Maduro the winner of Sunday's presidential vote, despite insistence by the opposition that the ceremony be suspended until a complete recount of votes was carried out given the very tight result.
The election authority said on Sunday that Maduro, the country's acting president, won the election with 50.7% of the vote compared with 49.1% for opposition challenger Henrique Capriles. Maduro is scheduled to take office as the successor of the deceased Hugo Chavez next April 19 and will rule until 2019.
An on Monday “seen the previous results, the National Electoral Council proceeds to proclaim as president of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, citizen Nicolas Maduro Moros” announced the president of the council Tibisay Lucena who added that the electoral system on Sunday ‘worked perfectly’.
Maduro will complete the six year mandate after having won by a very tight margin having obtained 7.563.747 votes while Capriles was supported by 7.270.403, following the count of 98.7% of ballots. This represents a difference of only 262.472 votes with a turnout of almost 18 million.
At the ceremony Maduro promised to fully abide by the legacy of Hugo Chavez, and declared himself the first ‘Chavista president’ and Chavez the first Bolivarian leader.
“I am a son of Chavez, I’m Chavista, the first Chavista president after Hugo Chavez and I will fully comply with his legacy of caring for the humble, the poor, protect the fatherland, its independence, of building Socialism” said Maduro following his proclamation as winner of Sunday’s election.
Opposition candidate Capriles called on the National Electoral Council to suspend the proclamation ceremony of Maduro until a recount of ballots, but the CNE ignored the request and went on with the ceremony.
“If you cowardly run to the proclamation ceremony you are an illegitimate president: that is what I’m telling Venezuela and the world, illegitimate, spurious”, said Capriles in a public statement addressed to Maduro.
Capriles called on his followers and said that if the proclamation ceremony effectively takes place, “we will hear the sounds of pots and pans banging all over Venezuela”, and as announced it happened.
Thousands turned to the streets in traditionally opposition neighbourhoods to protest and demand the recount of ballots. The echoes of the protest rejecting the proclamation of Maduro, could be heard across Caracas.
Maduro in his speech to the nation said that we don't want violence, we want peace, adding that if they (the opposition) want an audit, we welcome the audit ... I formally request the National Electoral Council to carry out an audit.
However Jorge Rodriguez head of the Hugo Chavez Command that managed the Maduro campaign accused Capriles of promoting a coup against the Venezuelan state,
“He is calling to confrontation among brothers. He is promoting destabilization and wants a coup” said Rodriguez who described another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez as a “psychopath” and warned that those who follow Commander Chavez will not remain with crossed arms: ‘we are going to defend the results, the Constitution and the legacy of Hugo Chavez”-
Capriles was quick to reply in a televised news conference. We think we won the election. The other side thinks they won and we're both within our rights.
All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper, that paper isn't for recycling, it's proof.”
Conscious of Venezuela's long history of turbulent protests, Capriles urged his supporters to resist temptations to resort to violence.
If the stalemate continues, Capriles asked his followers to gather in protest on Tuesday in front of election board offices around the nation. If there is still no sign of a recount by Wednesday, Capriles pledged to lead a peaceful march through the streets of Caracas to the election board's headquarters.