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A victory for Venezuela's opposition, but presidency still out of reach

The election council granted a partial recount of Sunday's presidential vote, but it's unlikely to reverse Maduro's inauguration, which took place today.

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A woman holds up images of President-elect Nicolas Maduro and the late Hugo Chávez as supporters gather outside the Parliament building where Maduro's inaugural ceremony takes places, in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday. The opposition boycotted the ceremony, hoping that the ruling party's last-minute decision to allow an audit of nearly half the vote could change the result in a the bitterly disputed presidential election.

Gil Montano/AP

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As Nicolás Maduro stood before Venezuela's National Assembly to be sworn in as president today, thousands of opposition supporters celebrated, salsa music blaring throughout the capital, in hopes that Mr. Maduro could legally be unseated.

In a surprise concession, Venezuela's Electoral Council (CNE) said last night that it will scrutinize an additional 46 percent of the votes cast in Sunday's election, fueling opposition hopes that candidate Henrique Capriles, who lost the presidency by less than 2 percent, still has a shot.

"We are where we want to be," Mr. Capriles said after the late Thursday night announcement. "I think I will have the universe of voters needed to get where I want to be."

"If they want to audit the remaining 46 percent, no problem, let's do it," said Jorge Rodríguez, Maduro's campaign manager. Mr. Rodríguez added that he would post the digitized results from 39,800 polling stations on the   United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) website in order "disprove the lies" of the opposition.

Capriles appealed for a full recount, claiming that some 3,200 voting “irregularities” occurred during the election. While overturning the initial electoral decision remains unlikely, analysts say Capriles and his political coalition are looking at a brighter future for their political parties. 

"Although [Maduro’s] supporters, the base of chavismo, are not saying it, they have to think about what happened here. How did we come in winning by 11 percentage points and a few months later we won by only one?" pollster Luis Vicente Leon, president of polling firm Datanalisis told the local press. "That's not a stellar victory."

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