Nicholas Maduro, the rabble-rousing successor to Hugo Chavez, won Venezuela’s presidential race on Sunday, but just barely.
Or, according to his opponent, not at all.
The firebrand Madura, who was expected to win easily as Chavez’s hand-picked successor, was declared the winner with 50.7 percent of the vote, less than two months after crowds thronged the streets of Caracas mourning their deceased leader and praising him in almost religious language.
Venezuela, tottering on the brink of social and economic turmoil, seems nearly ready to turn away from the divisive and destructive policies of the populist Chavez. The opponents of Chavismo are getting stronger.
The government’s policies have led to a huge fiscal deficit, ineffective currency controls that have weakened Venezuela’s purchasing power, and have caused frequent shortages of food and electricity, and rapidly rising prices.
Despite credible charges of election irregularities, the government-friendly National Electoral Council hastened Monday to confirm Maduro’s election with just 225,000 votes more than won by his opponent, Henrique Capriles.
Mr. Capriles, who lost last October to Hugo Chavez by a wide margin, has called on his followers to demand a recount, citing over 3,200 complaints to his campaign of voting irregularities. Without a recount, he said, Mr. Maduro would be an “illegitimate president.”
The White House has endorsed Mr. Capriles’ call, suggesting that it too has heard credible reports of irregularities. Spokesman Jay Carney said a “100 percent audit” of the results would be “an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results.”
Mr. Maduro built his campaign around the cult of Chavez and his promise to carry on his tradition. He endorsed Fidel Castro’s notion that the United States had somehow infected Chavez with the cancer that killed him. And he even suggested that the selection of an Argentine cardinal as pope was influenced by Chavez from heaven.
Fidel, in Havana, hailed Mr. Maduro’s questionable victory as a “transcendental triumph.”
More realistically, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello called for “profound self-criticism” by the followers of Chavez in the wake of the election.
For the sake of Venezuela, he should call for a recount.