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Debate Focuses on Recount as Venezuelan Opposition Disputes Maduro’s Victory

Mérida, 15th April 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela awoke today in a climate of uncertainty after government candidate Nicolas Maduro narrowly won yesterday’s presidential election and the opposition disputed the result, calling for a vote recount.

The Venezuelan Electoral Council (CNE) declared Maduro the winner late last night by a margin of just under 235,000 votes, or 1.6%. Maduro declared the victory “fair, legal, constitutional and popular”.

However, the opposition refused to recognise the result without a complete manual recount, arguing that their own internal numbers were different from those announced by the CNE.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles declared after that “you [Maduro] are the defeated one,” and that “we’re not going to recognise the result until we recount every vote”.

Maduro accepted a recount in principle, stating, “If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body”. A recount was also requested by one of the CNE’s five rectors, Vicente Diaz.

Today, debate within Venezuela and internationally has focused on the legitimacy of the result and the need for a recount of the votes.

The opposition has dubbed Maduro “illegitimate”, with Capriles declaring on twitter that “until every vote is recounted…there is an illegitimate president and we denounce it to the world”.

In not as so many words, opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado accused the government of fraud, telling supporters to “defend the vote” and that “Mr Maduro and his team know what they have done to “produce” these results”.

Meanwhile, the government has defended the result and urged respect for the CNE. Vice president Jorge Arreaza expressed his hope today that the opposition would “reconsider” their stance and accept their defeat.

Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro's campaign head, said today that ballot boxes could be audited to check the manual paper votes against votes registered by voting machines, but that counting every single manual vote would not be required to undertake a 100% audit of the election.

"The opposition know that it was a fair and transparent election, in line with institutional and legal rules, and they know that it was the (accurate) result," he added.

Vice president Arreaza also called on “all revolutionaries to reflect” on the result, proposing “revision and correction where it must be done” and stating the government must “govern with the people” in the coming period.

Despite the dispute over the result, Maduro is to be proclaimed president-elect by the CNE this afternoon.

This has been opposed by Capriles, who has asked the CNE not to go ahead with the act. “If you [Maduro] accepted a recount, and you are proclaimed [president elect], you are an illegitimate president,” he argued.

The country still awaits an official announcement over a vote recount and the process by which this would take place.

International observer groups

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) electoral accompaniment mission, which was present throughout the electoral process, has called for respect for the CNE’s official results.

“The Mission declares, such as has been expressed since its installation, that said results emitted by the National Electoral Council should be respected, as the competent authority on this matter,” said Carlos Alvarez, head of the UNASUR mission.

Speaking this morning, he further said, “Any claim, questioning or procedure that one of the participants requests must be addressed within the correct judicial framework”.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza this morning expressed his agreement with the need for a recount, given the narrow margin of victory and the opposition’s dissent with the result.

He also confirmed the OAS’s willingness to assist with such a process, offering “the OAS’s team of electoral experts, of recognised prestige and great experience in the field”.

Meanwhile he congratulated the Venezuelan people on the “civic spirit”, “high participation” and “order and calm” displayed on voting day.

International Electoral Observers, a group of 43 observers invited by the opposition MUD coalition to accompany the electoral process, also backed the opposition’s call for a recount, while saying that they “don’t affirm that there has been fraud”. 

The group also opposes Maduro’s proclamation as president-elect until a recount has been done.

International reaction

Countries allied with Venezuela in Latin America and the wider world recognised Maduro’s victory shortly after the results were announced, and welcomed six more years of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution.

In Latin America, countries such as Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Cuba, and El Salvador sent congratulatory messages. Global allies China and Russia have also recognised Maduro and welcomed his victory.

Argentine president Christina Kirchner was one of the first to publicly congratulate Maduro, stating that “once again, the Venezuelan people have ratified the electoral path as the peaceful way to fulfill the transformations begun by the fallen Bolivarian leader, comandante Hugo Chavez”.

Uruguayan president José "Pepe" Mujica is planning to attend Maduro’s inauguration on 19 April, where he would also represent the Mercosur trade bloc, comprised of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and Paraguay, VTV reports.

Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union have reserved full recognition of Maduro’s victory until after a recount.

A spokeswoman for the EU said that the regional bloc “takes note” of Maduro’s win, but that it was important for the result to be “accepted by all”. She urged that if a recount be done, this be undertaken “quickly and in total transparency, especially in light of such as slim margin (of victory)”.

The US has not recognised Maduro’s victory, but rather has argued that a recount is an “important, necessary and prudent step”, and that the US government will “let the process advance” before making further judgment on the result.

This article was edited at 5.20pm Venezuelan time.

Published on Apr 15th 2013 at 3.21pm