Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election
Hugo Chavez’s former Vice-President has won the election to succeed him:
CARACAS, Venezuela — In an unexpectedly close race, Venezuelans narrowly voted to continue Hugo Chávez‘s revolution, electing his handpicked political heir, Nicolás Maduro, to serve the remainder of his six-year term as president, officials said late Sunday.
But the thin margin of victory could complicate the task of governing for Mr. Maduro, emboldening the political opposition and possibly undermining Mr. Maduro’s stature within Mr. Chávez’s movement.
His opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, refused to recognize the results, citing irregularities in the voting and calling for a recount.
Mr. Maduro, the acting president, narrowly defeated Mr. Capriles, a state governor who ran strongly against Mr. Chávez in October. Election authorities said that with more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Maduro had 50.6 percent to Mr. Capriles’s 49.1 percent. More than 78 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“These are irreversible results that the Venezuelan people have decided with this electoral process,” Tibisay Lucena, the head of the electoral council, said as she read the result on national television late Sunday.
Mr. Maduro gave a defiant speech that suggested little willingness to make concessions. “We have a just, legal, constitutional and popular electoral victory,” he said.
Mr. Capriles was equally defiant. “We are not going to recognize the result until every vote is counted, one by one,” Mr. Capriles said. “The big loser today is you, you and what you represent,” he said, referring to Mr. Maduro.
Meanwhile, there were also signs that the strident, Chávez-style anti-American message that Mr. Maduro used during the campaign would now be set aside to improve Venezuela’s strained relations with the United States
[O] ver the weekend, with his election victory looking likely, Mr. Maduro sent a private signal to Washington that he was ready to turn the page. Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who was in Caracas as a representative of the Organization of American States, said in an interview that Mr. Maduro called him aside after a meeting of election observers on Saturday and asked him to carry a message.
“He said, ‘We want to improve the relationship with the U.S., regularize the relationship,’ ” Mr. Richardson said.
The foreign minister, Elías Jaua, met with Mr. Richardson on Sunday, and said Venezuela was ready to resume the talks that it had cut off, Mr. Richardson said.
Though Mr. Chávez’s death raised the possibility of a realignment in the hemisphere, Mr. Maduro’s victory would seem to extend the life of the leftist coalition of countries that coalesced around Mr. Chávez. Mr. Maduro seems certain to continue the lifeline of oil sales on preferential terms that Venezuela provides to Cuba, whose leaders were close allies of Mr. Chávez.
Yet even his supporters say that Mr. Maduro lacks his predecessor’s sharp political instincts and magnetism, and many questions remain about how effectively he will lead at home and abroad.
Obviously, things will be different under Maduro than they were under Chavez. Whether that will actually include a better relationship with the United States remains to be seen