By Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's election council said on Tuesday an audit of the results of presidential elections in April confirmed President Nicolas Maduro did win by 1.5 percentage points, despite opposition claims that the vote was stolen.
The widely expected announcement by the National Electoral Council, which oversees elections, left losing candidate Henrique Capriles with only a court challenge remaining in what appears to be a futile effort to overturn the victory of Maduro, who succeeded the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, refused to participate in what he called a "bogus audit" on the grounds it was not thorough enough to determine whether illegitimate votes had been cast.
The audit consisted of comparing paper receipts issued by electronic voting machines to a printout of the results those same machines transmitted digitally to the elections council for the purposes of tabulating votes nationwide.
The president of the election council, Tibisay Lucena, said the audit of paper receipts at 100 percent of the voting tables showed a difference of just 0.02 percent from the official results. The discrepancies had been explained in incident reports already submitted from election day, she said.
"Election results in Venezuela are and will continue to be a reflection of the will of the people," Lucena said in a televised broadcast.
Election officials and vote volunteers on election day had audited 54 percent of the paper ballots as part of a routine audit that the elections council later agreed to extend.
But Capriles had insisted the extended audit should also include a line-by-line review of electoral registry notebooks. Without this, he said, the audit would not be able to detect if there had been illegal multiple voting in centers where no opposition poll volunteers were present.
He is challenging the results in the Supreme Court, though few expect the justices will rule in his favor.
Capriles, who has accused the elections council of being under the thumb of the ruling Socialist Party, told voters on Tuesday to focus on municipal elections scheduled for December.
"We have to keep fighting, things are not going to change from one day to the next or with the results of a bogus audit," he said in an internet broadcast.
Government officials say Capriles has failed to present evidence of election-day irregularities and have accused him of fomenting post-vote violence that the government says killed 11 people.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and David Brunnstrom)