Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Maduro Wins

Returning to news coverage from Venezuela where Nicolas Maduro has won the presidential election against challenger Henrique Capriles in an estimated 51 to 49 percent of the vote.  Maduro's supporters turned out in the streets to celebrate.

With the nation still reeling from Hugo Chavez' death, voter turnout was high at 78%, though not as high as the last election in which Chavez swept into landslide victory with 81% casting ballots in what the Carter Institute has described as the best election system in the world.  The election was closer than expected, keeping many on the edge of their seats, with Maduro winning by about 300,000 votes.  

Mr. Capriles has demanded a recount, his Caracas campaign manager Jorge Millan asserting, "The electoral authorities are partisan towards the government."   

In response, an election official scoffed, "Henrique Capriles is the current governor of Miranda state.  The system is good when you win, but not when you lose?

President-Elect Maduro reportedly welcomed the recount to leave no doubts about his six year term.  He has given an acceptance speech, and his election win is formally recognized by the major Latin American leaderships, notably beginning with Argentina, Ecuador, and congratulatory statements by Raul Castro in Cuba. 

President-Elect Maduro pointed out in his acceptance speech that the right often wins elections by much narrower margins, without objection to that same process that puts their own candidates in seats, and presenting additional perspective on this latest win by the left.

"In other countries like in the United States," he said, "A president whose name I won't mention won by a margin of 0.3% and ruled for 8 years after that.  And what did the opposition candidates say about that?  Not a word.  In Mexico, a president won by 0.3% and governed a full six-year term.  What did the left say when they lost the election?  That the election results must be respected.  There are many cases like that.  Here we won with 2% - that's 300,000 votes in the middle of an electoral war - for the first time [in a situation in which]* "the giant" (Chavez) is not a candidate."

The Maduro campaign had criticized Mr. Capriles for his ties and support by that unnamed U.S. president and friends, notably former Bush state department officials Otto Reich and Roger Noriega.

Venezuela political observer and analyst Greg Wilpert says that a recount is likely approved by the election authorities based on the 2% margin, a process fairly easily accomplished within a few days, though not automatically.  Mr. Wilpert describes a system in which voters normally cast both a paper and electronic ballot, and then, about 53% of the paper ballot boxes are randomly selected for a paper ballot count.  This 53% paper ballot count is what is normally compared to the electronic vote count to ensure veracity.  What Mr. Capriles essentially wants is for all the ballot boxes to be opened and compared to the electronic count.

*Editor's bracketed clarification with respect to the translation.

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