Nicolas Maduro, the hand-picked successor of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was declared the victor in Sunday's presidential election, though the surprisingly close vote may be contested by his rivals. The country's election commission gave Maduro the decision with a 51-49 percent edge, and he immediately claimed victory for himself and his party, despite a winning margin of just over 200,000 votes. The election came just five weeks after Chavez's death, and six months after the ailing leader was re-elected by more than 12 percentage points.
The opponent in both that October campaign and yesterday's election, Henrique Capriles, has not gone so far as to declare outright fraud, but has not conceded that Maduro's victory is totally legitimate, saying "We will not recognize the results until every single vote is counted one by one ... Every box, every vote must be counted." His supporters say they have thousands of documented incidents that could indicate fraud in the results. The election commission is skewed heavily toward the ruling party and as the interim incumbent, Maduro had a huge advantage in resources and broadcast time (from state-owned companies) that was only amplified by the very short election cycle.
Unfortunately, for Capriles, he doesn't have a lot of options beyond pressuring the electoral commission for a recount. Even if the official tally is eventually accepted, Maduro will be ruling with the slimmest of mandates and now oversees a country with crushing economic problems, high crime, frequent power blackouts, and widespread corruption. One economist tells The Wall Street Journal this is a "Pyrrhic victory," and he gives Maduro a year before things really start to fall apart. We guess no good campaign goes unpunished.