Venezuelan opposition candidate
According to official results by the pro-government head of the
But even if that result were correct - Capriles disavowed them and is demanding a recount - Maduro was proclaimed the winner with a 1.6 percent victory margin, which was significantly less than Chavez's 10.8 percent margin of victory in October's election.
Since turnout was nearly the same as in October, it means that nearly 700,000 Chavez voters switched to Capriles this time, or that Capriles was able to draw voters who had stayed home in the last election.
Capriles scored an impressive result, considering the formidable state-run voting machine in support of Maduro and election rules that were tailored to ensure he would win.
The Maduro government had called a snap election soon after Chavez's death to benefit from people's outpouring of sympathy toward their deceased president. Maduro not only used massive state resources from the
Under election rules, the opposition candidate could only use four minutes a day of paid TV propaganda, while Maduro could use 14 minutes, not counting the hours-long nationally broadcast speeches he made almost daily as acting president.
Also, the government pressed public employees - whose numbers have skyrocketed from 800,000 when Chavez took office in 1999 to 2.4 million today - to vote for Maduro, and intimidated opposition voters to discourage them from voting by leaking rumors that automatic voting machines would be able to track opposition voters.
Yet, despite these and other hurdles, Capriles received nearly half or more of the vote, depending on whose version you choose to believe.
And Maduro did so poorly that his own ruling party Vice President
Both Maduro and
What Maduro and Lucena didn't say is that Bush's victory was conceded by his Democratic contender after a recount, and that Calderon's victory was endorsed by international observing missions that monitored the entire election process, including access to television, while the Venezuelan government only allowed friendly observers who arrived shortly before the election to witness Sunday's vote.
My opinion: There are serious questions about Maduro's legitimacy.
If Maduro is so sure that he won, why did he speed up the official proclamation of his victory by pro-government electoral authorities on Monday instead of waiting for the total recount of the vote that he himself had promised in his election victory speech? Why did the government carry out an "express" inauguration rather than doing a recount that could have given Maduro's victory a greater legitimacy, as demanded by Capriles and suggested by the
The answer may be that Maduro knows that he didn't win or that he fears that Capriles' 3,200 cases of voting violations in Sunday's vote, plus tens of thousands of votes abroad that haven't been counted, could turn around the official results.
So what will happen now? Maduro will start denouncing imaginary domestic and international conspiracies against his government on a daily basis - like his wild claim that the U.S. government inoculated Chavez with cancer, or that retired U.S. ambassadors are out to kill him - in an effort to divert attention from his questioned legitimacy.
He will also silence Globovision, the last anti-Chavista television network, which has reportedly been sold to government cronies, in hopes that a harsher censorship of the media will allow him to consolidate his power.
But the fact is that
Unless he allows a total recount of the vote to prove his legitimacy, as he himself vowed to do in his victory speech, he will start his term under a cloud, and his authoritarian populist government may implode soon under the pressure of a collapsing economy, internal divisions and a re-energized opposition.
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(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services , "Venezuelan Opposition Leader Gains New Political Clout "