Latin America & Caribbean

Capriles formally contests Venezuelan election result

Henrique Capriles, 1 May 2013
Image caption Capriles has vowed to take his challenge to international courts if necessary

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has formally challenged the result of last month's presidential election.

Nicolas Maduro won the vote by a narrow margin of 1.49 percentage points, or fewer than 225,000 votes.

But lawyers representing the opposition coalition have filed a complaint at the Supreme Court, alleging a number of irregularities and calling for the result to be annulled.

Mr Maduro says the elections were fair.

He replaced the late president, Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer on 5 March after 14 years in power.

Before the left-wing leader went to Cuba for treatment in December, he asked the Venezuelan people to vote for Mr Maduro should his health fail.

Hours after the poll closed on 14 April, the authorities announced the victory of Nicolas Maduro. He was sworn in five days later.

Mr Capriles denounced dozens of alleged cases of voters being coerced to cast ballots for the government's candidate.

Image caption Lawyer Gerardo Fernandez said Venezuelans must have the right to vote again

'Irreversible victory'

A lawyer representing the opposition, Gerardo Fernandez, said the team had handed in a 180-page document describing the alleged irregularities.

The document also includes allegations of intimidation during the electoral campaign.

"In a democracy you must not only be allowed to vote, but you must be allowed to vote freely, without coercion or violence," said Mr Fernandez.

Mr Capriles has said that he would use "all the available instances" to fight Mr Maduro's victory.

The Electoral Court must still decide whether the complaint is justified before allowing a trial to begin.

Mr Capriles had demanded a vote-by-vote recount to the National Electoral Council (CNE).

The CNE said it would be legally impossible to carry out. It agreed to carry out a partial audit, which is expected to take until June.

During the audit, 46% of the votes cast will be examined. The CNE said the remaining 54% had been checked immediately after the election.

The CNE declared President Maduro the winner on 15 April, saying his victory was "irreversible" after polls suggested a 1.8-percentage-point lead with more than 99% of the votes counted.

His lead has since narrowed to 1.49 percentage points after votes cast abroad were counted.

Mr Capriles eventually rejected the CNE audit and said Mr Maduro had "illegitimately stolen the presidency".

The opposition leader said the CNE did not give his team of advisers proper access to all the electoral data.

"The National Electoral Council believe they are above all Venezuelans," said Mr Capriles.

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