The president of Venezuela's National Electoral Council has announced acting President Nicolas Maduro as the winner of Venezuela's election to fulfill the remainder of deceased leader Hugo Chavez's presidential term. The election pitted Chavez's handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, against favored opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. The council announced that Maduro earned 7,505,338 votes (50.66%) against the 7,271,403 (49.07%) picked up by Capriles. The National Electoral Council has announced that these results are irreversible. Almost 80% of eligible voters participated in the election.
This election was far, far, far closer than anyone had anticipated. Many polls had indicated Maduro held nearly a ten-point lead against Capriles, so that fact that he lost by so few votes was shocking. Capriles was bolder in this election than in his previous race against Chavez, perhaps because he understood that Maduro is not Chavez and was thus open for more criticism.
Given the close call, many are questioning the results. Venezuelan Twitter has blown up with accusations of election fraud against the Chavistas, using the hashtag #FraudeElectoral (#ElectoralFraud). Fear of unrest is growing in Venezuela, and the electoral council has called on people to stay indoors. The new president-elect, Nicolas Maduro, has announced he is willing to allow an electoral audit and called on people to stay calm.
A former bus driver and union leader, Maduro previously served as foreign minister from 2006-2013. Hugo Chavez named him vice president in 2012. Following Chavez's death, Maduro was named interim president. Maduro mentioned Hugo Chavez's name approximately 7,000 times since his former boss died.
If Maduro is able to hold onto power in the OPEC nation, his rule will see a continued deterioration in U.S.-Venezuelan relations. The former bus driver has publicly accused the United States of assassinating Hugo Chavez, and is widely expected to continue his predecessor's bellicose rhetoric towards the United States. Maduro will also maintain Chavez's socialist revolution, to the further detriment of Venezuela's economy, safety, and liberty. The six years that he will sit in the presidential palace will likely see Venezuela continue to squander its natural resources like oil.
The razor-thin vote margin places Maduro on considerably weaker footing than originally anticipated. He was not handed an electoral mandate, and the Venezuelan people made it clear that they are not as willing to place their trust in Nicolas Maduro as they were in Hugo Chavez. However, his victory does ensure that Chavez's legacy will remain intact and that the ghost of Chavez will remain in power for the next six years. But Maduro is no Chavez; he lacks the skill and charisma of his predecessor. He will help Chavez's legacy, yes, but he will help by reinforcing it as a legacy of economic disaster and eroding civil rights. Over the next six years, this narrow majority will reap what it has sown.