CARACAS -- Hugo Chávez proved his power from beyond the grave, as his handpicked successor narrowly won office in a contested vote that many saw as a tribute to the fallen socialist firebrand.
Nicolás Maduro, 50, a long-time ally of the late president, narrowly edged out rival Henrique Capriles in a race that will be contested.
On Monday the opposition continued its call for a full audit of the tight vote, and the government continued to celebrate the victory and accept congratulations.
The National Electoral Council said Maduro had won in 16 out of 24 states, including the capital. But with 99.1 percent of the vote counted he had an advantage of less than 240,000 votes.
Capriles is demanding a full-recount, which Maduro has accepted, and said his camp has collected more than 3,200 reports of problems and campaign violations that could have swayed the vote.
On Monday, the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations, one of the international groups invited to follow the election, said the vote was peaceful and took place without problems.
Voting booths closed in complete normalcy and the data was transmitted without problems, said organization President Roberto Rosario.
Now the political leadership has to accept these results with responsibility, he said.
The Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, also said Sunday's election was free and fair.
While Venezuela does not allow election observers, it does allow accompaniers who oversee the vote. Some independent witnesses have echoed opposition claims about the uneven playing field and Maduros use of state resources to promote his candidacy.
While the results are being questioned here, congratulations have come in from China, Russia, Argentina and Cuba.
Cuban leader Raúl Castro congratulated Maduro for his transcendental victory, which he said proved the power of the ideas and the work of Commander Hugo Chávez.
Venezuela is Cubas most important financial backer and sends the island almost 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
Capriles said his camp had counted 3,200 campaign violations during the day and that his internal count proves he won. He demanded a complete recount.
The people have expressed themselves but the results do not reflect the reality of the country, he said. Mr. Maduro, if you were an illegitimate leader before this process you are even less legitimate now. . . . The big loser today is you and what you represent.
Maduro said presidents in the United States and Mexico had won by narrower margins and were allowed to govern in peace.
But the tight race was a rude shock for the administration. Chávez had defeated Capriles by 11 percentage points just six months ago, and Maduro went into the race leading many polls by double digits.
Maduro said his campaign had been the victim of a psychological war and shadowy mercenaries who were trying to spark violence and sabotage the electrical system. He also said it was the first vote in 14 years that took place without father Chávez.
Now his son is going to be president of the republic and will prove what hes capable of, Maduro said. We are going to build a new and powerful majority.
He also warned the opposition against trying to take power through a coup. If they do try it, well know how to respond, he said.