Maduro narrowly wins Venezuelan vote, rival rejects result

Caracas, April 15 (IANS) Venezuela’s acting president Nicolas Maduro narrowly won Sunday’s presidential elections with 50.66 percent of the votes according to official tally, which was rejected by opposition challenger Henrique Capriles.

With 99.2 percent of the ballots counted, Maduro beat Capriles by a margin of less than 2 percentage points, said National Electoral Council’s (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena.

Capriles gained 49.07 percent of the votes, reported Xinhua.

Other candidates got 0.26 percent of the votes and the turnout of Sunday’s elections was 78.71 percent, according to Lucena.

“In view of the tightly-raced elections, we have talked with the candidates,” she said, adding that the results were “irreversible”.

Given the narrow gap between the top two candidates, the CNE’s opposition rector Vicente Diaz appealed for an audit of the vote counting.

In a victory speech to the nation, Maduro said he is open to the audit, and called for peace.

“We don’t want violence. We want peace. They (the opposition) want an audit. We welcome the audit … I formally request the National Electoral Commission to carry out an audit,” he said.

The president-elect said he had called Capriles after winning the elections.

“We have a fundamental difference. I respect your judgment and respect you. But we will not compromise. We can not leave the country on tenterhooks for days, and I prefer that the results be given now,” Maduro said of the telephone conversation he had with Capriles.

“I recognize and respect the votes of the opposition, but also ask for ours,” Maduro said. “Let’ s not fall entangled in a debate that can generate exhaustion.”

Maduro appealed to the people who did not vote for him to work together for true democracy.

Maduro, candidate from the ruling United Socialist Party, will complete the remaining of the six-year term left by late President Hugo Chavez starting from January.

Maduro’s supporters fired massive fireworks in Caracas in celebration of his victory.

The results surprised many as pre-election polls gave Maduro a nearly 10-point lead over Capriles, who represents the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition.

Capriles rejected the election results and demanded recount of all votes.

“We have different results … Mr. Maduro, if you were illegitimate before, now you are more so,” he told a press conference, adding that the opposition will not recognize the results “until all votes are recounted.”

“We won in many of the states. The government is defeated. We have in our hearts the taste and feeling of our people to victory, that sooner or later will become a reality,” he said.

More than 18.9 million Venezuelan voters went to the polls Sunday to choose a successor to Chavez, who died of cancer in March.

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