CARACAS — Election officials in Venezuela say acting President Nicolas Maduro has won the special election to succeed his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
The national election authority announced late Sunday night that Maduro had narrowly defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles, winning just 50 percent of all votes cast to Capriles' 49 percent.
Venezuelans gathered in the streets of the capital of Caracas to celebrate the election of Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor. The 50-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister began the campaign with a double-digit lead in the polls over Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who lost decisively to Chavez in last year's presidential election.
But Maduro's lead shrank considerably in the lead-up to Sunday's vote. Capriles accused Maduro and the Chavez government of doing little to solve Venezuela's economic problems, food shortages and soaring crime rate.
Maduro has pledged to continue what he calls the Chavez revolution, which supporters say used oil wealth to lift millions out of poverty.
Chavez died last month after a two-year battle with cancer.
He was a staunch socialist who was first elected president in 1998. He earned the enmity of the United States and others for such policies as nationalizing major companies and courting world leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.
The opposition accused him of becoming a dictator, but he was revered by many of Venezuela's poor.