Venezuela's government-friendly electoral council quickly certified the razor-thin presidential victory of Hugo Chavez' hand-picked successor last night, apparently ignoring opposition demands for a recount as anti-government protests broke out in the bitterly polarised nation.
People stood on balconies banging pots and pans in protest as the electoral council's president proclaimed Nicolas Maduro president for the next six years. In the evening, they did it again, a raucous clanging in neighbourhoods rich and poor, including the one surrounding the presidential palace where Maduro was holding a news conference.
In the afternoon, thousands of young people clashed with National Guard troops in riot gear who fired tear gas and plastic bullets to block the protesters back from marching on the city centre. The demonstrators threw stones and pieces of concrete. Protests also were reported in provincial cities.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Maduro was elected on Sunday by a margin of 50.8% to 49% over challenger Henrique Capriles - a difference of just 262,000 votes out of 14.9 million cast, according to an updated official count released on Monday.
Sworn in as acting president after Chavez's death from cancer on March 5, Maduro squandered a double-digit advantage in opinion polls in two weeks as Capriles highlighted what he called the ruling Chavistas' abysmal management of the oil-rich country's economy and infrastructure, citing myriad woes including food and medicine shortages, worsening power outages and rampant crime.
By contrast, Chavez had defeated Capriles by a nearly 11-point margin in October.
Until every vote is counted, Venezuela has an "illegitimate president and we denounce that to the world," Capriles tweeted.
One of the five members of the National Electoral Council, independent Vicente Diaz, also backed a full recount, as did the United States and the Organisation of American States.
But the electoral council president, Tibisay Lucena, said in announcing the outcome on Sunday that it was "irreversible." At the proclamation ceremony on Monday, she called Venezuela "a champion of democracy" and defended its electronic vote system as bullet-proof.