Maduro certified as election winner amid protests
Caracas: Venezuela's government-friendly electoral council quickly certified the razor-thin presidential victory of Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor on Monday, apparently ignoring opposition demands for a recount as anti-government protests broke out in the bitterly polarised nation.
People stood on balconies banging pots and pans in protest as the electoral council's president proclaimed Nicolas Maduro president for the next six years.
In the evening, they did it again, a raucous clanging in neighbourhoods rich and poor, including the one surrounding the presidential palace where Maduro was holding a news conference.
In the afternoon, thousands of young people clashed with National Guard troops in riot gear who fired tear gas and plastic bullets to block the protesters back from marching on the city centre.
The demonstrators threw stones and pieces of concrete. Protests also were reported in provincial cities.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Maduro was elected Sunday by a margin of 50.8 per cent to 49 per cent over challenger Henrique Capriles a difference of just 262,000 votes out of 14.9 million cast, according to an updated official count released yesterday.
Sworn in as acting president after Chavez's March 5 death from cancer, Maduro squandered a double-digit advantage in opinion polls in two weeks as Capriles highlighted what he called the ruling Chavistas' abysmal management of the oil-rich country's economy and infrastructure, citing myriad woes including food and medicine shortages, worsening power outages and rampant crime.
By contrast, Chavez had defeated Capriles by a nearly 11-point margin in October.
Until every vote is counted, Venezuela has an "illegitimate president and we denounce that to the world," Capriles tweeted yesterday.
One of the five members of the National Electoral Council, independent Vicente Diaz, also backed a full recount, as did the United States and the Organisation of American States.
But the electoral council president, Tibisay Lucena, said in announcing the outcome Sunday that it was "irreversible." At the proclamation ceremony yesterday, she called Venezuela "a champion of democracy" and defended its electronic vote system as bullet-proof.
Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, had demanded the proclamation be suspended. He convoked the pot-banging protest and asked supporters to gather outside the electoral council today.