2 December 2005

On OAS flawed hypothesis: Venezuela's electoral boycott explained

02.12.05 | Diplomatic sources in Caracas report about an opinion trend that appears to be gathering force. The "electoral boycott" hypothesis, peddled by Venezuela's officialdom and its OAS sidekicks, has it that the decision of opposition political parties to withdraw from Assemblymen elections on December 4 constitutes, at best, a "boycott" and at worse "an electoral coup." Chavez opponents also stand accused of having, irresponsibly, broken an agreement with the OAS whereby participation in the race was a given. Let me be real clear about the reason that prompted such a reaction by the opposition. On Wednesday 23 an audit was conducted in Fila de Mariches. OAS and European observers were invited and so were Smartmatic representatives, National Electoral Council (CNE) officials, political parties and local electoral watchdog (NGO Ojo Electoral). A cocky omnipotent Jorge Rodriguez saw fit to allow the audit in the conviction that it would be just another embarrasing event for the opposition. Up until that moment fraud accusations held no water. But as Olga K reported in "The man Smartmatic wasn't expecting," Leopoldo Gonzalez pulled fraud evidence out of the hat for all to see.

Leopoldo Gonzalez is a name that is going to go down in Venezuelan history. After each of the aforementioned observers and guests had selected their prefered option in the mock election of Wednesday 23, this man ran a programme on a computer and started announcing in loud voice: Mr. X you have voted for Y; Mr. T you have voted for M; Mrs. R you have voted for L... Olga K reports that Smartmatic officials were so embarrased that they brought the exercise to a halt after the result of the fifth name was announced by Gonzalez.

Now, with Gonzalez's demonstration as precedent, why is the OAS trying to force parties to continue in the race? Why the unfounded "boycott" accusations? How can diplomats entertain the "electoral coup" argument? Political parties certainly had agreed to participate, but only amoral and anti-democratic individuals can ignore the fact that Smartmatic machines keep the sequence of the vote, therefore the CNE is uncapable of guaranteeing a transparent process for the secrecy of the vote can be revealed with absolute certainty, as demonstrated by Leopoldo Gonzalez. This is the crux of the opposition's withdrawal en masse, for it altered the dynamics of the race. However should the OAS role be to point fingers to culpables parties, why not starting with the CNE? After the recall referendum of 2004, the Carter Center produced a report that contained a series of recommendations to CNE authorities made jointly with the OAS. Among which:

Recommendation: An external, third party audit should be performed on the REP. This should be done prior to the next election, and an analysis of the alleged voter “migration” should be implemented.

Recommendation: The voting process, whether or not it includes automated voting machines, must be streamlined and procedures put into place to allow voters to vote more expeditiously.

Recommendation: To increase confidence in automated voting machines, a successful election day audit after closing (a count of paper receipts immediately after the close of the polls) must be performed during the next election. The size and procedures of this audit should be decided by the CNE in consultation with the political parties well before the regional elections. The tally sheets (actas) should be printed before transmission to avoid suspicion or possibility of central computers giving instructions to the machines. All software and other related certifications should be observed by political parties and should receive independent, third party certification.

None of the suggestions made have been taken on board or implemented by the CNE, yet OAS officials have the nerve of blaming opposition parties for having withdrawn from a process that is completely rigged and, above all else, lacking any semblance of transparency. So here's a question for OAS's Ruben Perina, since his boss -Secretary Insulza- sought to distance himself from the pathetic way in which Perina is conducting affairs in Venezuela; why are you siding with an undemocratic regime hellbent in celebrating elections under fraudulent circumstances?

Another aspect I fail to comprehend is the silence of 'tough talker' Teodoro Petkoff. Mind you he is part of the local NGO (Ojo Electoral) that witnessed the audit conducted in Mariches, where they saw how rigged the machines are. How come he has not published a list of names of attendees? Venezuela and the world needs to be informed about such trascendental matters, so that personal and institutional responsibilities can be established.

To conclude some quarters in Venezuela are reporting that file and rank chavistas are provoking people, seeking confrontation and violence. The time for all democracy-loving Venezuelans to ignore the incendiary rethoric of Hugo Chavez and his thuggish collaborators has come. It is imperative that the institution with the highest level of credibility in the country, i.e. the Church, steps up to the plate in order to placate emotions.

The Emperor has no clothes!!