12:45 I’ll close the live blog with this reflection. This is a “devastating victory” for Maduro. It leaves him weakened within his own coalition and facing an emboldened opposition. Capriles has asked for a 100% audit of paper ballots. Maduro appeared to accept that in his speech. It is not clear that the CNE has the capacity or willingness to carry that out. Four of the Rectors got up and left before opposition rector Vicente Diaz suggested the possibility. This will undoubtedly be a real test of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and culture. Today’s vote showed the same thing that the December 2, 2007 vote showed. This is a people with over a half century of uninterrupted democratic history and which has the independence to defy expectations.
12:30 Capriles again demands an audit suggesting that irregularities plus votes abroad suggest a different result. Again calls Maduro illegitimate.
12:20 Capriles says he will not make “a pact with lies or with corruption.” He also says he does not make pact with those he considers illegitimate. He points to a stack of paper describing voting day irregularities. He says they are not going to recognize the result until every vote is counted, until every box of paper ballots is opened. He says “voice of the people is the voice of God.” He says that their (the opposition) counts show a different result. He says to Maduro “the one who lost tonight is you.” Says he respects those who voted for another option but demands respect for those who voted for him. Says the country is divided in half.
12: 15 Capriles prepared to declare.
11:50 Faces at the victory celebration tell the story: subdued, reflective, very few smiles, scare applause.
11:35 Rejects Capriles request for a pact. Mentions the need to construct a majority, but then again suggests no need for a pact when the electoral result is clear.
11:30 Maduro talking. Denounces psychological warfare. Looks disoriented and lost in his speech.
11:25 Diaz stays alone on stage. Other four rectors leave. He asks for a 100% audit of the votes.
11:20 Maduro 50.66% Capriles 49.07%. 1.59% difference. Incredible. Lucena said they have already talked to both candidates which suggests they will accept. Now opposition rector Vicente Diaz is talking.
11:15 CNE rectors coming down. Perhaps to give result.
11:05 Sources suggest photo finish. Votes from abroad could be important.
10:50 Reports suggest that CNE has counted 98% of the vote and still does not have an “irreversible tendency.” Put differently: very close.
10:40 Relatively more rumors in past half hour talking of a Maduro victory by 1.5-2 pts.
9:55 Either possibility is going to be difficult. A Capriles victory will be difficult for the government to accept. A small margin victory for Maduro would also be difficult since it would leave him seriously weakened. Given that he started with a 15+ point lead, winning with a margin of less than half of that will raise doubts.
9:45 What I can say is that the rumors from both sides are talking about smaller gaps. Both sides suggest they’re winning by 2 points. Unfortunately that is within the margin of error of most quick counts. In October the CNE gave its first bulletin–which they only do with there is an “irreversible tendency”–at 10 pm. If it is much latter this time around, it means the margin is small.
9:15 We’re currently in the spin zone. In Venezuelan elections the hours between the closing of the polls and the CNE’s “first bulletin” are full of rumors from both camps that their exit polls and quick counts show they are ahead. Public announcements from the parties (who cannot project results) project self-confidence and warn the other side that they will need to respect the results. Tonight is no different.