Merry Christmas to all the readers of PMBComments
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
Pope John Paul II
Read more of this PMBComment!
Merry Christmas to all the readers of PMBComments
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
Pope John Paul II
PMBComments: At the suggestion of Alek Boyd from VCrisis, I recommend you check the website of the Bolivian electoral authority http://www.cne.org.bo/ and compare the experience with that of visiting the site of Venezuela's high tech - and massively expensive - electoral apparatus or CNE http://www.cne.gov.ve
Two weeks after the botched parliamentary election Jorge Rodriguez's discredited CNE has not been able to provide definitive results. According to insiders, they have been trying to embellishing the results in order to make them more presentable to their irate boss in Miraflores. The massive abstention (83%+), the high number of null votes from those that had to go but did not want to vote (10%+) , and the results from the military garrisons (50%+ null) need to be dressed up…and then explained. Rumor has it they have called upon the country's top thanatologists to lend a hand.
This past Sunday, in his weekly talk-a -thon, Mr. Chávez fumed about his missing 7.5 million votes. He blamed all except himself and his inept and dictatorial manner of governance. The government’s undiplomatic attacks on the electoral observers have turned into a daily occurrence making their presence in any future event as unlikely as an electoral event itself (it took Chávez & Co. a few days to react, but they suddenly understood the real significance of the preliminary reports which say “fair and transparent” in rather formulaic and disingenuous fashion, but then ravage the whole process in a rather frank and enduring manner).
As I have said many times, Hugo Chávez will not move a finger to create conditions for free and fair elections. Those who have failed to understand the nature and frailty of his “massive popular support” stated that he would win this election – and any other - hands down. But Hugo Chávez learned his lesson well when signatures for the recall referendum were collected and when millions of people lined up for up to 13 hours to vote YES to his recall. After the fiasco of 4-D, he will not bet again that people are grateful for having their country and their future decimated by a fraudulent revolution and its smoke and mirrors “Misiones”. PMB
PMBComments: The 100% Bolivarian National Assembly pursues a half-baked smoke-screen strategy that only serves to prove a point. The point? 85% of
The smoke makes it hard to see what is next, but victimization seems to be the name of the game, so Bolivarian repression (i.e. a’la Carlos Ortega) must be just around the corner. Kicking the board is the only “viable” strategy for a “revolution” stripped suddenly of its mandate.
Mr. Chavez's Rubber Stamp
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
Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
PMBComment: the usually alert and savvy team at the Economist must have forgotten to read the very harsh post-election reports of the OAS and the EU (both posted below in this blog) when they neglectfully state in today's article (read below) that: "...the president will be pleased that monitors from the European Union and the Organisation of American States observed no major disturbances." This grave omission renders this whole article futile….but I will use it as context to continue analyzing the outcome of the less than fair and transparent elections.
I have a feeling that - some in the international press and within certain foreign ministries - in the beating-the-dead-horse dash to lash at the "hapless' opposition leadership (i.e. the heads of AD, Copei, PJ, MAS…and I forget the others) fail to account for the fact that - months ago - polls began to predict that the abstention rate for this “all important” parliamentary election would be in the neighborhood of 80% (Keller). Such projections came as a surprise then to many given the purported popularity of Mr. Chávez and the costly, desperate - and ILLEGAL - attempts by the government to get the vote out (i.e. buy, cajole and concoct).
The sad truth is that the parties we all love to mock had stopped being players in this game a long time ago. Their late and unrehearsed exit might have actually saved them somewhat from the deserved consequences of their habitual foolishness.
Clearly the population was long intending on going against Chávez's wishes of being "legitimized" once more by a less than perfect election. The parties were willing to negotiate principles and admit illegality just to go back to a National Assembly in which they have been less effective and noticed than the inventory tags on their chairs. Ergo, the last minute decision by a these “political parties” to boycott the election is NOT the story AT ALL!
The REAL STORY is that the vast majority (83% and counting upwards as we await the final tally of null votes) of voting age Venezuelans opted to BOYCOTT the quintessential act in any democracy because they had no other means to effectively express their opposition, fear, lack of confidence, or loss of patience at the way the political elite – those in power and those sensibly powerless – have been conducting the affairs of the state.
The clear losers here were the authoritarian government and the political parties that failed to hear and interpret both a nation’s plea and its deafening silence.
The TRUE STORY here is that after 7 years people are feed up with all things Chávez. This may not mean they are ready to go back to the now "100% demonized past", but it certainly means that Chávez has been robbed of the weapon that made him so menacing. No longer can he state ANYWHERE that his crooked brand of populism is backed by those he proclaims to be helping.
This Sunday’s election proves that the only gullible people around are those that failed to understand the true story by the time the polls opened, or worse those who continue to insist on the contrary after the votes were counted and the damming observer’s reports were delivered. PMB
Note: Chávez has used his histrionic talents to obliterate the demonstrable fact that 97% of everything in
Chávez’s clean sweep
Dec 5th 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda
In an unusual election victory, Hugo Chávez’s party and its allies have won all the seats in
A FREE and fair election in which the president’s supporters win all of the seats in the legislature? It sounds more like the kind of contest Saddam Hussein used to “win” in
At least the opposition can claim that this election does not amount to a nationwide endorsement of the left-wing president and his “Bolivarian revolution”. Turnout was just 25%, which will allow the anti-Chávez parties to call the poll illegitimate. But the president will be pleased that monitors from the European Union and the Organisation of American States observed no major disturbances.
In reality, Mr Chávez’s win has as much to do with the hapless opposition as it does with the shameless way in which he has bought his popularity. There is considerable resistance to the president and his overbearing control over
The opposition parties pulled out less than a week before the election, after an audit of voting machines found a piece of software that could record the order of votes. This, combined with electronic fingerprinting at stations, meant that each vote could, in theory at least, be matched to an individual. That the ballot might not be secret matters in a country in which the government has used voting data to deny jobs and government services to opposition supporters.
The national electoral council announced that it would pull the fingerprinting machines, but this was not enough to keep the opposition groups in the contest. Noting that four of the five members of the electoral council are Chávez supporters, and under pressure from their activists not to take part, they claimed that there was no possibility of a fair vote. Mr Chávez characteristically called their boycott an American-backed coup attempt.
In reality, the parties that pulled out knew they were highly unlikely to win in any case. Mr Chávez’s MVR and its allies already controlled a narrow majority of seats before the election, and the president is genuinely popular, though his approval rating has fallen from around 70% earlier this year to around half. Mr Chávez claims to be destroying the old order, in which two main parties cosily swapped power and enjoyed its perks. Thanks to the attention he has lavished on
In 2002, a coup briefly removed Mr Chávez from office, before loyal sections of the army helped restore him to power. The next year, he successfully stared down a long strike by workers at the state-owned oil company. In 2004, opposition parties finally succeeded in a long campaign to bring a referendum on his rule. But Mr Chávez won 58% of the vote in that contest, in a poll whose fairness was cast into doubt by the opposition (but not by all outside groups that analysed it).
Although Mr Chávez is successful at the polls, he has ridden roughshod over the usual checks and balances that make a democracy. He has used the levers of state power even more enthusiastically than his predecessors. The army is loyal directly to the president. The judiciary, including the supreme court, is packed with his supporters. A 2004 law increased regulation of the media and threatens journalists with jail terms for “illegal” conduct (though it has not been widely used). Now, with a two-thirds majority in the assembly, Mr Chávez can change the constitution at will. This will probably result in yet more state entanglement in the economy, and fewer limits on the presidency. Mr Chávez is almost sure to cruise to re-election in December 2006.
How does he get away with it in an era in which most Latin American countries are consolidating vibrant, if imperfect, democracies? The short answer is oil.
The Venezuelan leader is friendly with Fidel Castro, and
For if Mr Chávez is a generous friend, he is an irritating enemy. Most prominently, he feuds with the
At just 51 years of age, Mr Chávez may be looking beyond winning next year’s election. As long as oil prices stay high, he will probably be able to purchase enough domestic and foreign support to stay in power, especially if the opposition continues to be as disorganised as it has been in the past several years. Failing a plausible way to replace him,
Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved
Ante Declaraciones Preliminares de las Misiones de Observación Electoral de la Unión Europea y de la Organización de Estados Americanos. Elecciones Parlamentarias 2005
Comunica a los venezolanos lo siguiente:
Vemos con suma satisfacción que las objeciones y recomendaciones realizadas por las Misiones de Observación Electoral de la Unión Europea (UE) y de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) coinciden plenamente con las denuncias y planteamientos formulados oportunamente por nuestra organización durante el proceso electoral de las elecciones parlamentarias 2005.
Consideramos que en sus Declaraciones Preliminares, las Misiones de Observación destacan aspectos sustanciales y de fondo sobre nuestro sistema electoral que deben ser atendidos por la ciudadanía y corregidos por los órganos del poder público competentes, con el acuerdo de todos los sectores de la sociedad venezolana. Entre tales aspectos, cabe señalar los siguientes:
1. Desconfianza en el CNE
La Declaración Preliminar de ambas Misiones coincide en destacar la desconfianza de amplios sectores de la sociedad venezolana en el Consejo Nacional Electoral: "Esta se vio expresada en críticas relacionadas a su origen y composición, a la percepción que la oposición tiene de su parcialidad y falta de transparencia en su accionar, así como en relación con la aplicación controvertida de algunos aspectos de la normativa electoral. Adicionalmente, se observaron ciertas inconsistencias y vacíos en la normativa legal que disminuyeron la seguridad jurídica y que sugieren la necesidad de una reflexión rigurosa sobre dicha normativa" (OEA).
Ejemplo de ello fue la explícita referencia al mecanismo electoral conocido como las "morochas", utilizado para obtener escaños adicionales a los que realmente corresponderían en función de la proporción de votos obtenidos, lo cual según la Declaración "sin duda desafía el espíritu de la Constitución" en lo concerniente a la representación proporcional (UE).
2. Automatización del voto
Las Misiones de Observación Electoral indican que el proceso automatizado de votación tal y como está desarrollado y aplicado por el CNE desborda el marco legal vigente, haciendo difícil su comprensión y manejo en 41% de los votantes observados quienes necesitaron más tiempo que el establecido y ayuda de terceras personas para ejercer su voto. "La asistencia al votante proporcionada a menudo por el personal de las mesas de votación, fuerzas de seguridad y testigos de los partidos políticos planteó dudas sobre el mantenimiento del secreto del voto" (UE).
3. Registro Electoral
Los Observadores Internacionales en su Declaración Preliminar denuncian el rápido aumento de votantes antes del Referéndum Revocatorio que plantean serias dudas sobre la composición del Registro Electoral, agravadas por el rechazo del CNE a proporcionar las direcciones de los electores a los partidos políticos, sin posibilidad alguna de examinar los problemas estructurales que puede presentar el Registro Electoral a menos que "se revise el proyecto de Cédula de Identidad, que es la base del sistema de registro de votantes" (UE).
4. Ventajismo gubernamental
Las Misiones de Observación de la UE y de la OEA coinciden en denunciar el flagrante ventajismo electoral por parte de los partidos políticos gubernamentales, en los siguientes aspectos:
a) "La publicación de una base de datos que contiene los datos personales de más de 12 millones de ciudadanos junto a sus preferencias políticas (el llamado Programa Maisanta), expresadas durante la recolección de firmas para el Referéndum Revocatorio, produjo un miedo generalizado a que esta información pudiese ser usada con el propósito de intimidar e influir de manera indebida en los votantes. Este hecho jugó un papel significativo a favor de la abstención" (UE).
b) "Está prohibida la participación de funcionarios públicos en la campaña. Las violaciones a esta norma observadas en casi todos los Estados, fueron cometidas por casi todos los principales partidos políticos. Los partidos usaron citas e imágenes de sus funcionarios públicos en sus carteles de campaña, incluyendo en algunos casos al Presidente. Las violaciones detectadas en la última fase de la campaña fueron cometidas principalmente por partidos pro-gubernamentales" (UE).
c)"Se observaron actividades de campaña a favor del Gobierno en las proximidades de un gran número de las mesas de votación. El tipo de actividades de campaña que se observó abarcó la distribución de comida, coches con megáfono y posters, puestos de información y ofrecimiento de transporte a los votantes" (…) "El uso de medios de transporte público por los partidos pro-gubernamentales para movilizar a sus simpatizantes se observó en Trujillo, Anzoátegui, Bolívar, Carabobo y Guárico" (UE).
d)"La continua promoción de los proyectos de gobierno en los medios del Estado durante la campaña funcionó como publicidad indirecta de los partidos en el poder. El recurso excesivo de las cadenas (discursos a la nación transmitidos simultáneamente a través de todos los medios electrónicos del país), que proliferaron en los días previos a las elecciones, pueden haber representado una ruptura del silencio electoral" (UE).
5. Intimidación a votantes
También coinciden en la intimidación de los votantes por parte del sector oficialista, al detectar:
a)"La presencia de los cuerpos armados del Plan República dentro de los centros de votación fue atestiguada en 25% de los centros observados, lo que fue contra la previsión que permitía a las fuerzas de seguridad estar dentro de los centros de votación, pero no en las mesas de votación" (UE).
b)"Las declaraciones públicas de una alta dirigente del oficialismo que buscaron coaccionar la participación de los funcionarios" (OEA).
c)En algunos casos se observaron a miembros de partidos que "pedían a los votantes firmar y poner su huella digital en un trozo de papel que confirmaba que habían votado y por quién" (UE).
6. Prórroga electoral
Los Observadores indican que "las mesas cerraron entre las 17:00 y las 19:00 horas, aún cuando en ellas no habían votantes en la cola, incumpliendo así el horario establecido por la ley. La decisión fue tomada por el directorio del CNE por razones climáticas en cinco Estados, y en el resto del país, con el argumento de que los centros deben permanecer abiertos por 10 horas. Estas circunstancias contribuyeron a crear incertidumbre y suspicacia. Cabe destacar que la extensión del horario coincidió con un incremento de la campaña oficialista para aumentar la participación en las últimas horas" (OEA).
7. Administración Electoral
Las Misiones de Observación Electoral declaran que el CNE mantuvo algunas garantías en el acto de votación como la eliminación de las máquinas capta-huellas y de los cuadernos electrónicos, y la realización de las auditorías posteriores. Señalan que la administración y preparación logística del acto de votación fue adecuada, indicando que en los centros específicos donde actuaron no observaron hechos relevantes que comprometieran la seguridad y transparencia del sistema automatizado de votación. Concluyeron que en tales centros, el resultado de la auditoría posterior, con algunas excepciones, no presentó inconsistencia entre actas y boletas depositadas en las urnas.
En vista de las irregularidades, las Misiones de Observación Electoral de la Unión Europea y de la Organización de Estados Americanos, concuerdan en realizar las siguientes recomendaciones:
a) La designación de una nueva Directiva del CNE compuesta por profesionales de prestigio e independencia de diversa procedencia y de amplia confianza entre todos los sectores de la sociedad;
b) La integración y coherencia de la normativa electoral bajo un marco legal adaptado a las provisiones constitucionales electorales;
c) La revisión de la prohibición de financiar a los partidos políticos con fondos del Estado;
d) La realización de una auditoría independiente al Registro Electoral y al Sistema de Cedulación de Identidad;
e) La ejecución de auditorías independientes y permanentes del sistema automatizado de votación;
f) El establecimiento de mecanismos legales en elecciones parlamentarias que garanticen la representación proporcional de las minorías (OEA); y
g) El fortalecimiento del principio de separación, independencia y equilibrio de los órganos de los poderes públicos del Estado (OEA).
h) Promover la formación y capacitación de los ciudadanos y los funcionarios electorales en el uso del voto electrónico.
i) La promoción de un diálogo efectivo por parte de las autoridades gubernamentales (OEA).
SÚMATE, consciente de su responsabilidad pública con los venezolanos, asume el compromiso de velar por el cumplimiento de estas recomendaciones.
PMBComment: My definitive commentary on the FRAUDULENT elections, the OBSERVANT observer’s thorough reports, the HAPLESS political parties and the COURAGEOUS and NOT-THAT-EASY-TO-FOOL citizens of
Only thing I would have added as a punch line would have been this concluding statement/warning.
THESE ELECTIONS DID NOT MEET THE MINIMUM INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS IN TERMS OF FAIRNESS AND TRANSPARENCY, AND THEREFORE…THEY SHOULD BE DECLARED NULL AND VOID.
Organization of American States
PRELIMINARY OAS OBSERVATIONS ON THE LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS IN
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) witnessed, over the course of one month, the process to elect representatives to
As a result of Sunday’s observation, the
Nevertheless, based on its direct observation on election day, the
In the majority of polling centers observed by the OAS, the polls closed between 5 and 7 p.m., even in several cases when no voters were in line, which was not in compliance with the schedule established by law. The decision was taken by the CNE leadership for weather-related reasons in five states, and in the rest of the country on the grounds that the polling centers should remain open for 10 hours. In practice, poll workers and members of Plan República were the ones who decided the time the polls would close. These circumstances helped to create uncertainty and suspicion. It is worth noting that the extension of the voting hours coincided with an intensification of the governing party’s campaign to increase participation in the final hours.
In terms of the electoral process, throughout its work the
In particular, the
Despite the important guarantees granted by the CNE, at the request of this significant segment of the opposition, this segment decided in the end not to participate in the elections. It is worth noting that the guarantees that were offered included the elimination of the digital fingerprint machines and of the great majority of the electronic voting notebooks, an increase in audits after the polls closed, the granting of additional space in the news media for electoral advertising, and the presence of witnesses and international observers in all phases of the electoral process.
Similarly, the efforts undertaken by the CNE in fulfillment of its mandate to automate the vote are worth mentioning. Nonetheless, given its complexity, the system requires permanent audits as well as technical and human safeguards, with the effective participation of all political parties, in order to generate the necessary confidence.
Electoral participation is what contributes to the strengthening of democracy and the legitimacy of representative institutions. It is up to the electoral authorities to generate the necessary conditions for the full participation of all sectors. Although the right not to participate is recognized, it is of concern that due to the withdrawal of the opposition, an important portion of the citizenry is left without representation in the National Assembly. Every democracy requires an institutional opposition committed to the electoral process, so that it can loyally participate in the democratic system.
During the election campaign, the
There was observed, among political actors, an aggressive and discourteous public discourse about the electoral system, which hampered the creation of a favorable climate in which to debate political proposals and to carry out constructive electoral campaigns.
In the view of the
EU Election Observation Mission to
Parliamentary Elections 2005
Following an invitation of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to observe the Parliamentary Elections (National Assembly, Latin-American Parliament and Andean Parliament) of 4 December, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was deployed in
A Delegation of the European Parliament, led by Mr. Arunas Degutis, and including six MEPs, joined in the EU EOM on 1 December. This statement is issued before the process is completed; the EU EOM will remain in country until 21 December to observe the post-election period, including electoral complaints. A Final Report will be issued in February 2006. The EU EOM wishes to thank the CNE, the Venezuelan authorities and all the other actors for the excellent cooperation and availability demonstrated throughout its stay in
Wide sectors of the Venezuelan society do not have trust in the electoral process and in the independence of the electoral authority.
The legal framework contains several inconsistencies that leave room for differing and contradictory interpretations.
The disclosure of a computerized list of citizens indicating their political preference in the signature recollection process for the Presidential Recall Referendum (so-called "Maisanta Program") generates fear that the secrecy of the vote could be violated.
The CNE, in a positive attempt to restore confidence in the electoral process, took significant steps to open the automated voting system to external scrutiny and to modify various aspects that were questioned by the opposition.
The CNE decision to eliminate the fingerprint capturing devices from the voting process was timely, effective and constructive.
The electoral campaign focused almost exclusively on the issue of distrust in the electoral process and lack of independence of the CNE. The debate on political party platforms was absent.
Both State and private media monitored showed bias towards either of the two main political blocks.
The EU EOM took note with surprise of the withdrawal of the majority of the opposition parties only four days before the electoral event.
Election Day passed peacefully with a low turnout. While the observers noted several irregularities in the voting procedures, the manual audit of the voting receipts revealed a high reliability of the voting machines.
These elections did not contribute to the reduction of the fracture in the Venezuelan society. In this sense, they represented a lost opportunity.
The EUEOM takes note of the fact that wide sectors of the Venezuelan society do not have confidence in the electoral process and in the electoral administration. This standpoint, which has its roots in the high polarization that divides the Venezuelan society, became especially apparent during the Recall Referendum in 2004 as well as in the run up to these elections.
The disclosure of a database containing more than 12 million citizens' personal data and their political preference (the so called "Maisanta" Program) expressed during the signature collection for the Recall Referendum generated widespread fears that this information could be used for intimidation purposes and undue influence on voters. This fact played a significant role in favor of the abstention.
The opposition parties focused their campaign on the perceived lack of neutrality of the CNE and alleged dangers posed to the secrecy of the vote by an automated voting system which was meant to include the fingerprint capturing devices.
Central electoral campaign themes such as economics and tax policies, the importance of social programs, the role of the private sector in the economy or environmental policies were missing from the political parties' public interventions. The prohibition of state funds for electoral campaign purposes was often mentioned by parties as a factor, which impeded a more public and transparent campaign.
The use of state resources by pro-government parties to mobilize supporters was observed in
Civil society organizations like Sumate and Ojo Electoral played, in different ways, a very important role in the elections. However, only Ojo Electoral sought and obtained accreditation to observe the elections.
In a context of mistrust and extreme polarization, the EU EOM acknowledges the efforts made by the CNE to increase the political parties´ confidence in the process. These measures included reviews of various elements of the automated voting process such as the software of the electronic voting machines, the fingerprint capturing machines and of the results aggregation system, as well as the extension of the audit paper trail to encompass the manual recount of the voting receipts in 45 % of the polling stations.
The discovery of a design flaw in the software of the voting machines, with the consequent remote possibility to violate the secrecy of the vote was dealt with by the CNE in a timely and adequate manner. The possibility of endangerment of the secrecy of the vote was evaluated by EU EOM experts as remote.
The breach of the secrecy of the vote could only be possible if the sequence of both the identification of the voters and the votes cast was reconstructed. This reconstruction would require access to three different dispersed sources of information by a qualified user. These sources are the memory of the voting machines, the memory of the fingerprint capturing devices and the entire code of the encryption key (that was divided among the political parties and the CNE) used in the system to protect the voting data.
The elimination of the fingerprint capturing devices from the voting process was a significant move aimed at restoring the confidence of the parties. It was therefore with surprise that the EU EOM took note at this stage of the withdrawal of the main opposition political parties from the electoral contest without any new additional motivation.
The legal framework for the elections is composed of the Basic Law of Suffrage and Political Participation of 1998, the Constitution of 1999, the Electoral Statute of Public Power of 2000, the Basic Law of the Electoral Power of 2002. Due to the National Assembly's inability to find a qualified majority on the adoption of a new Basic Law, crucial aspects of the electoral process have not been harmonized with the provisions of the new Constitution 1999.
These inconsistencies opened room for differing and contradictory interpretations of various aspects of the process (e.g. voter registration, CNE competences), and exemplified the already existing divide between opposing sectors of the society. The current composition of the CNE Steering Board is a contentious issue. Following the inability of the National Assembly to reach the required majority to elect the CNE Steering Board, the Supreme Court, availing itself of the extraordinary powers granted by the Constitution in case where the National Assembly is unable to take a decision, designated the Members of the Steering Board before the Recall Referendum. More recently, one of the members of the Steering Board was nominated by the Supreme
Court under a procedure contradictory to the one used for the first extraordinary nomination of the Steering Board.
The system of representation in force in
The principle of the automated voting system is enshrined in Art. 154 of the Basic Law of Suffrage and Political Participation 1998 and in Art 33, Item 42 of the Basic Law of the Electoral Power of 2002. The current development and applications of the automated voting process have however surpassed in various aspects the legal framework.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) is an institution with significant human and technical resources. The CNE technically administered the process well, and its logistical preparations for the electoral event were adequate. Its performance was however tainted by the accusations of bias and partisanship that have accompanied its work since the past Recall Referendum process. In the election preparations the CNE demonstrated a clear willingness to meet the demands of the opposition parties to increase confidence on the process. Among the main steps taken to reduce the opposition concerns over the automated voting process, the CNE increased the number of polling stations to be audited from an initial 33% to 45% and reduced the use of the electronic voter lists to 2%. However, this was perceived by the opposition parties as insufficient.
The security and transparency measures introduced in the automated voting process are in line with the most advanced international practice. The various types of system reviews put in place by the CNE represented and important opportunity to explain and review various aspects of the automated voting system to experts of political parties and observers. Apart from the paper trail audit on election day, there were four types of reviews that the EU EOM observed including of voting machines software and hardware, results aggregation software, voting machines assemblage and production, and election day simulation. Despite the fact that no proper audit procedures were agreed in advance, a significant disclosure of information was achieved. However, access to information for party experts could be further improved. The political parties were selective in presenting to the media the activities and the findings of the audit sessions.
The voter register ( Registro Electoral Permanente, hereinafter REP), has been the source of continuous debate and several allegations of illegitimate entries. This is not a novelty in the Venezuelan elections; however, the sharp increase of registered voters before the Presidential Recall Referendum cast serious doubts on the composition and entries of the most recent REP. These suspicions were heightened in the pre-electoral period by the refusal of the CNE to make available the address of the voters to political parties due to an unclear constitutional data protection provision. However, political parties were given sufficient access to the voter register. Structural and long standing problems in the REP are likely to exist, and can only be solved in conjunction with the revision of the Identity Card program which is the basis for the voter registration system.
The Venezuelan media display a great diversity of political opinions However, considered individually, the main media outlets only exceptionally referred to the various political actors in a manner which could be considered both fair and balanced. Most of the private media tended to offer more space to the views of the political forces critical of the Government, and when expressing their political preferences, they often disregarded basic journalistic principles.
On the other hand, state-owned media should provide fair recognition to the views of all Venezuelans and therefore has strong obligations in terms of objectivity, fairness and impartiality. However, it did not fulfill these obligations. The tone of the coverage of opposition parties in the publicly owned media was significantly more negative than the one reserved to the parties in government. Furthermore, the intense promotion of government policies on the state media during the campaign worked as an indirect publicity of the parties in power. The excessive resort to cadenas (addresses to the nation simultaneously broadcast through all the nation's electronic media) which proliferated in the days prior to the elections could represent a breach of the campaign silence.
The EU EOM notes that the frequent presence of the President on State TV and radio is an unusual practice and did not contribute to the improvement of the political climate.
The use of images featuring public officials for campaign purposes was widespread and must be condemned as a generalized, flagrant violation of CNE regulations on that matter. Furthemore, the excessive focus on parties and personalities given by the media in its coverage of the campaign has
resulted in a striking scarcity of information about the platforms of the contesting parties.
Polling stations opened on average between 7,00 and 8,00 am. The delays were mainly due to the late arrival of the staff and a general slowness in the opening procedures. In 70% of the polling stations observed there were missing polling officials replaced by political party agents, reserves or ordinary voters.
The presence of the armed forces of Plan República inside the polling stations was noted in 25% of the polling stations observed. This was contrary to the provision that allowed the security forces to be inside the voting centres but not inside the polling stations. The political party agents were observed in 70% of the polling stations visited. In 68 % of these cases there were only agents from pro-government parties. Domestic observers were present in 6% of the polling stations observed. Their presence was observed in 18% of the polling stations where the EU EOM observed the audit of the count.
The majority of the voters in the polling stations observed experienced problems with understanding the functioning of the voting machines and required assistance. In 41% of the cases observed there were voters unable to complete the process in the prescribed three minutes. This indicates both a lack of adequate voter information and training for election officials on the automated voting system. The assistance to the voters was often provided by the polling station staff, security forces and the political party agents, raising concerns about the secrecy of the vote. Campaign activities in favor of pro-Government parties were noted in the vicinity of a large number of the polling stations observed. The type of campaign activities observed included food distribution, cars with megaphones and posters, information stands and provision of transport for voters. Few cases of intimidation were observed, with party members asking voters to sign and thumbprint on a piece of paper that they had voted and who they had voted for.
The polling hours were extended by the CNE throughout the country. The motivation for this decision was the delays in the opening and the bad weather conditions. This led to confusion and allegations of attempts from pro-government parties to boost the turnout.
The paper trail audit (manual recount) of the electronic count was observed in 75 different polling centers. Despite a lenghty implementation of the audit procedure, the results indicated a clear reliability of the results, with few cases of discrepancy observed between the number of voters marked in the voter register and those counted by the machine and between the paper receipts and the votes recorded in the voting machines. The general conclusion of the observers was that the voting machines seemed very reliable. The aggregation of results proceeded with high speed. The announced preliminary results cover almost 90% of the results. The preliminary turnout announced by the CNE is of 25%. However, there is no clarity on the level of invalid votes that oscillate between 5 and 10%.
The legal framework that governs the electoral process must be harmonized with the constitutional provisions on the elections.
The National Assembly should appoint a CNE Steering Board composed of independent professionals of various extractions that enjoy the trust of all the sectors of society.
The prohibition of public funding to parties for the electoral campaign should be reconsidered. The electronic voting system should be audited by an independent institution.
The REP should be audited in conjunction with the ID register by an independent institution.
The CNE should launch as soon as possible training and civic education programs aimed at familiarizing electoral officials and the electorate with the electronic voting procedures.
The Wall Street Journal
The Dictator of
December 6, 2005; Page A20
After last week's editorial about his oil-for-influence campaign aimed at the U.S. Congress, several readers objected to our description of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as a "dictator." Let's hope these forgiving souls paid attention to Sunday's congressional elections in that country.
Mr. Chávez's party or parties sympathetic to his Bolivarian revolution won all 167 seats in the country's unicameral congress. Every single seat. But that Saddam-like sweep was only possible because most Venezuelans decided not to participate. Even the government admits to an abstention rate of greater than 75%. While it's true the opposition boycotted, it did so knowing how the government had cheated to win the August 2004 recall referendum.
The Chávez transgressions in 2004 included the use of voting machines in which software was not reviewed, refusal to allow auditing of the voting registry, not guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote, and using the list of Venezuelans who had signed the recall petition to threaten the livelihoods of government employees and contractors. Overseeing it all was a government-appointed electoral council, which did what it could to outlaw competition. The European Union was so appalled that it refused even to monitor the 2004 vote.
The EU and Organization of American States did show up this weekend. But suspicions were heightened before Sunday's vote when a technician showed foreign monitors that the fingerprint tracking machines used at the polls could be used to identify how individuals voted. In a country where the government owns the means of production (mostly oil), Venezuelans fear that voting wrong could cost them their jobs.
The government agreed to pull the fingerprint scanners, but the damage was done. Venezuelans went on electoral strike. Mr. Chávez demanded that government workers go to the polls, but to little avail. Venezuelans seem to think they live in a dictatorship. The only issue is whether the rest of the world, especially the OAS, will have the nerve to admit it.
Copyright 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
We want to announce to the country the results of our electoral observation operation; it was based on a random, national, and statistically representative sample. According to this study, the national level of voter participation in the December 4 parliamentary elections was of 17.7 %. Additionally we want to point out that the participation at a regional level was of 14.9 % for the Capital District and of 10.4 % for the State of
The extremely low electoral participation figures are the language in which Venezuelans have chosen to tell the electoral authority and the entire world that that this is not the path towards a better country.
Yesterday was not –as they insist on telling Venezuelans and the world- a perfectly normal day… what is normal in a democracy and particularly in a democracy such as ours, is that people vote.
Nor was it either a normal polling day since yesterday citizens were intimidated. Public employees were coerced not only by threats -the more than illegal, despicable statement made by Congresswoman Iris Varela according to whom public employees would be dismissed if they did not vote- but also by calls to their private telephone numbers. Perhaps this explains the high number of invalid votes registered. Many people went to vote because they were afraid and then decided to cast a blank vote.
It was not a normal day; on a normal day there would be no official advantage. Yesterday there were clear evidences of it, such as the President’s speech and the constant summons through all the media made by members of the government party and high ranked public officials.
In spite of all these appeals to vote, voting centers were empty throughout the day. Nevertheless, the CNE, in violation of the Suffrage Law and infringing the agreement signed with international observers, extended the voting period beyond 4 pm. According to our figures, over 30% of the votes scrutinized were registered during that extension period.
What has become evident is the categorical failure of the CNE whose de-legitimization has been backed by both government sympathizers and by the opposition. A CNE that now brings forth a likewise illegitimate National Assembly. We cannot continue to contaminate all electoral acts with illegitimacy.
Today, the national government has two options: to continue its strategy of trying to cover the sun with one finger, turn a deaf ear, and continue as if nothing had happened, or listen and ponder the profound meaning of what has happened here and rectify to once again meet with the democratic country.
We, the citizens, will watch carefully, because depending upon the road chosen by the government we will likewise choose our fighting methods until normalcy is reestablished in Venezuela, were we go out to vote and happily elect our legitimate representatives.
SPOKESPERSON: MARÍA CORINA MACHADO
Venezuelans, all Venezuelans, saw what really happened today. Even if they try, they won’t be able to hide it.
December 4th of 2005 will mark a breaking point, a before and after in Venezuelan democratic history.
People decisively rejected an illegitimate electoral authority, and a flawed electoral process that has violated Venezuelan laws and international transparency principles.
We have heard different official spokespersons stating we had a normal electoral process. We do not agree: what is normal in an election is to see people voting. This abstention turns it into an illegitimate process.
The election results indicate to Venezuelans and to the world that our country is from this day forward a less democratic country. Two facts attest to that:
First: We go from a Parliament elected by a majority of Venezuelans, to one chosen by a negligible minority.
Second: We go from a multi-party Parliament which reflected the country’s political diversity, to a single-party Parliament, which does not represent ample segments of the population. Today an Assembly wounded by illegitimacy was born.
These are the consequences of having an Electoral National Council Board appointed unconstitutionally. The CNE has acted behind the country’s back, infringing the most elemental principles of the institution of suffrage; it has destroyed the citizens’ confidence in the vote. Today the people of
In face of this un-concealable situation the Government should listen to what the citizenry has said with its compelling attitude. Recognize its significance, and open new ways to the road back to democracy. The Government must rectify.
If on the contrary, they fail to recognize what has happened and try to cover the sun with a finger, denying the true levels of participation, the citizens without a doubt, will respond in defense of our rights.
SÚMATE reiterates its compromise with the country to continue working so that this majority which today rejected an electoral system which de-legitimized the democratic institutions will once again come out to vote. One day this majority that expressed itself with its silence, will vote, will fill the streets with flags, with hope and liberty. That day will come soon.
… We are Citizens