While Venezuela does not allow election observers, it does allow “accompaniers” who oversee the vote. Some independent witnesses for the opposition have echoed claims that the playing field was uneven and Maduro used state resources to promote his candidacy.
“After what we lived through and saw yesterday — all the complicated and delicate situations that we witnessed — we cannot say, objectively and categorically, that this was a clean and purely democratic process,’’ said Gustavo Palomares, president of the Institute of Higher European Studies.
The Organization of American States also called for a recount.
While the results are being questioned, recognition came in from around the globe. China, Russia, Argentina, Ecuador and Cuba were among the nations to congratulate their Venezuelan ally.
Cuban leader Raúl Castro called Maduro’s victory “transcendental” and said it proved the “power of the ideas and the work of Commander Hugo Chávez.”
Venezuela is Cuba’s most important financial backer and sends the island almost 100,000 barrels of oil a day.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday said the Venezuelan people deserve congratulations “for their peaceful and orderly participation in this electoral process.”
But he added that, given the closeness of the results and the call for an audit, it’s an “important, prudent, and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results.”
The recount, if it happens, and the fraud allegations could keep this nation on tenterhooks for weeks, analysts said.
“Maduro could begin his presidency with some serious legitimacy issues and under the shadow of suspected fraud,” said Oswaldo Ramírez with Caracas’ ORC political consulting firm.
The Texas based political research firm, Stratfor, said that if Capriles does not accept the results of the recount, “Venezuela could be in for a long and drawn-out public battle, which could result in civil unrest.”
The tight race was a rude shock for the administration. President Hugo Chávez had defeated Capriles by 11 percentage points just six months ago, and Maduro went into the race leading in many polls by double digits.
The loss of that much political capital in so short a time could generate internal frictions within the ruling PSUV party, Ramirez said.
“He’s going to have to be radical to try to prove that he’s got a strong hand and power when, electorally, he’s weak,” Ramirez said.
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.
Jamila Contreras, a 38-year-old Maduro supporter blamed the media and a “lying” opposition for the tight race.
“They said so many bad things about him,” she said, “but now they just need to let him govern. He’s our president.”