Dec 12/05 - The Economist's print view: closing in on the facts
PMBComment: in my previous post I took issue with the Economist’s coverage of the post-election, and in particular with the fact that the paper all but ignored the preliminary reports presented by observation missions from the OAS and the EU. It did not take long to receive an explanation that is worth bearing in mind as main stream media, and particularly non-dailies, develop bipolar personalities to maintain their web content fresh between print issues. As it turns out the note I criticized was not written by the same team responsible for the always excellent print coverage. I was informed that the “statement comes from a web-only article prepared by our Global Agenda team (who are a separate unit) on Monday, ...If you want our take on the election, clink on Americas on the left hand side of the website and you'll get to the story (as in print edition)”.
I did as suggested and below you will find a thorough story fully in accordance with what we expect from The Economist. PMB
All power to chavismo
Dec 8th 2005 | CARACAS
From The Economist print edition
Edging towards a Potemkin democracy
EVER since he was first elected in 1998, Hugo Chávez,
The opposition's boycott means that the new assembly will be composed wholly of supporters of Mr Chávez, albeit split among several parties. But the election was hardly an unmitigated triumph for the government. Only 25% of the electorate took part, admitted the CNE. The opposition says the real figure was under 20%. The CNE extended voting hours in some areas, as the government made frantic efforts to get out the vote.
The National Assembly was the only remaining government institution in which the opposition had any influence (it held 79 of the 165 seats before the election). The judiciary, the armed forces, the audit office—even the ombudsman—are controlled by Mr Chávez's supporters. Their clean sweep in the assembly removes the last remaining check on the president. All this gives Mr Chávez the power to change the constitution at will.
The opposition looks rash to have yielded its place in the assembly by default. Officials complain that the opposition has spent years trying to overthrow the president—by a coup and a general strike—rather than oppose him by political means. Certainly, the opposition lacks the leadership, strategy and programme to pose an effective alternative to Mr Chávez.
But its decision to pull out of the poll was driven by its voters, who were intent on staying at home anyway. "Broad sectors of Venezuelan society have no confidence in the electoral process, nor in the independence of the electoral authority," said election observers from the European Union. They called on the assembly to appoint a new CNE "composed of professionals with prestige and independence".
So what now? Alí Rodríguez, the foreign minister, invited the opposition to a dialogue. But the minister, a former guerrilla who took part in a 1992 coup plot by Mr Chávez, said they must remember that in a democracy "decisions are taken by the majority, not the minority". Officials point out that turnouts have been low in parliamentary elections in
The assembly vote was a dress rehearsal for a presidential contest in a year's time, in which Mr Chávez will seek a further six-year term. Absent a new and impartial electoral authority, the opposition's supporters may conclude that the electoral road to power is closed to them. Some of the opposition parties may disappear in any event. Mr Chávez says that they will be illegal unless they re-register.
With the legislature reduced to a rubber stamp, the risk is that political conflict will move to the streets. The government has changed the penal code to restrict demonstrations. Hitherto, most Latin American and European governments have distanced themselves from the strident denunciations of Mr Chávez emanating from
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