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Chávez heir narrowly wins Venezuela vote

CARACAS -- Hugo Chávez's hand-picked successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro, won a razor-thin victory in yesterday's special presidential election, edging the opposition's leader by only about 300,000 votes, electoral officials announced early Monday.

Tensions rose after the close victory over Henrique Capriles, who sought a recount. Capriles, 40, said early Monday that he wouldn't accept the election results and demanded a recount, saying his campaign tallied "a result that is different from the results announced today." He said in a speech: "Mr. Maduro, if you were illegitimate before, now you are more so."

Maduro, who had a double-digit advantage in polls just two weeks ago, received 50.7 percent of the votes to 49.1 percent for Capriles, with 99 percent of the votes counted, electoral officials said. Turnout was 78 percent.

Chavistas set off fireworks and blasted car horns as they cruised downtown Caracas in jubilation.

Maduro, 50, addressed a crowd from the presidential palace. He called his victory further proof that Chávez "continues to be invincible, that he continues to win battles." He said Capriles had called him before the results to suggest a "pact" and that Maduro refused.

Sunday night, tensions rose between the Maduro and Capriles camps after polls closed as both sides hinted at victory and suggested the other was plotting fraud. Later, The Associated Press reported about 11:20 p.m., more than 4 1/2 hours after polls closed, that a senior campaign aide for Capriles said he was meeting with the country's military top brass.

During campaigning, Maduro promised to carry on Chávez's self-proclaimed socialist revolution while Capriles' main message was that Chávez's regime put Venezuela on the road to ruin.

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