In its first steps into a post Hugo Chavez-government, Venezuela seems to still be struggling. Tensions are flaring in the South American nation after the unexpectedly close election declared Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s chosen heir, the new President.
Maduro was a heavy favorite heading into the election, with many polls showing him having a double-digit percentage lead on his competitor, Henrique Capriles. When the final numbers came in, though, Maduro only had 50.8% of the vote, and, with over 3,000 incidents on election day in need of inspection according to Capriles (BBC News), it’s hard to believe that things were handled in a fair and legitimate manner.
The Associated Press cites a campaign coordinator for Capriles as having said that Maduro and his camp “know perfectly well what happened and so do we. They are misleading their people and are trying to mislead the people of this country.” Capriles himself took to Twitter to tell his followers not to distress, but he reiterated his campaign’s stance that they were, in some way, cheated.
All voting in Venezuela is done by electronic voting machines (sound familiar?) and, after a vote has been tallied in the machine, a receipt of that vote is printed. Officials have begun to “audit” or look through those receipts to verify if Maduro’s victory was legitimate. 54% of the vote has been audited up to this point, and that 54% shows Maduro still having a very narrow margin of victory – 50.8% to 49.0%. Capriles and his staff insist that within the remaining 46% of the vote to be audited, the proof of his defeat of Maduro lies. The fact that the vote is being audited at all, though, came as a surprise to many, as officials announced when declaring Maduro’s victory that the results were “irreversible” (BBC News).
The United States has yet to recognize Maduor’s win, wishing for a full audit of the vote to ensure fairness. It’s unlikely that the Henrique Capriles campaign will quiet down anytime soon. Until every vote has been audited and all proof in favor of Maduro’s victory has been clearly presented, the tensions in Venezuela will remain. There were some reports of violence after polls closed, but thankfully there has yet to be any major violence in the wake of the contested election. Protests by supporters of Capriles continue.