Honduras faces bet between advancing or losing

Honduras uses manual voting, and during the recent primaries the shadow of fraud marred the process. Photo: La Patilla.

Honduras found out the final results of the November 18 primary elections just this week. Beyond the unspeakable delay in the announcement of who won the interns, the irregularities and inconsistencies noticed and decried in various parts of the country are real reasons for concern, facing the November 2013 general elections.
The questions that emerge in light of this panorama are: Is there an institutional will to improve the electoral system? Will the country be capable of applying a reform during this last year before the elections? Will the political actors take compromise in the effort of achieving a reliable system? Will the speakers do enough to guarantee the people’s intent?

The answers, for now, are mere speculation. However, if we make an inventory of what’s happened in the last few days, the truth is no other: it is imperative that Honduras makes its path towards an electoral transformation that shakes both the political class and the citizenry. It is a matter of advancing or losing.

Questioning stems from the very essence of the manual voting system used by Honduras. The country employs the Preliminary Electoral Result System (TREP) to carry out quick tallies that are done selectively and at the most convenient speed. The structure that depends directly from the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) was dubbed “the spawn of fraud” by all factions. The reasons include the fact that the results offered were obtained by phone calls and through reports from three companies, one of which belonged to Arturo Corrales, current Minister of Foreign Affairs. There was even an allegation that the computing system was being managed by personnel unknown to the political actors.
Inconsistencies shown by more than 10% of the records reflect either that the personnel in charge of carrying out the event was not trained to fulfill this task or that the weaknesses in the system allow for the alteration of the information that guarantees the reliability of the results.

Three of the country’s nine parties participated at the interns. All of them questioned the process, according to the overthrown former president Manuel Zelaya —who got to be nominated to the Parliament and whose wife will be a presidential candidate—. Zelaya demanded, just as many parties, intellectuals and electoral experts did, the elimination of the TREP, and he also made a call for the modernization of the system through the implementation of electronic voting.

Professor Jorge Roberto Madariaga considered that automation is “an unavoidable necessity” to eradicate corruption and electoral fraud, save on resources, make voting easier, and guarantee that suffrage remains secret and universal and that each vote will be respected.

What will the country and its authorities bet on? This yet remains to be seen, but the only option should be providing its citizens with clean and safe electoral processes. In order to achieve this, the world’s experience indicates that it is necessary to take advantage of electoral technology. The solution is right there for Honduras—hopefully it will not leave anything to chance.

Colombia begins to shield its elections

Colombia’s National Registrar, Carlos Ariel Sánchez, announced that the first stages to automate elections in the country have been cleared. These steps help guarantee that the nation is shielding itself in order to be able to apply electronic voting in the near future. He stressed that this advance is certified by a refined electoral registry and the electronic registration of candidates as first steps to modernize voting in the country. Read here.

Political bias in Venezuelan elections

Venezuela has a 100% automated voting system. Photo: Noticias24

More than a month after the presidential elections in Venezuela, one of the most important organizations in the world in terms of electoral monitoring did not hesitate to describe the electoral reality that was observed in the country. The Carter Center pointed out in the executive summary of its Study Mission that an impressive 80.52% of voters attended the polling places, thus reflecting their trust in the electoral system—100% automated—. However, at the same time, it accused the National Electoral Council (CNE) of “being deeply affected by partisanship.”
The eight-page long text published by the Carter Center is revealing. It mentions that Venezuela, although having advanced to the point of having one of the “most highly automated voting systems in the world”, capable of offering quick results after the closure of the last polling place, and the fact that these outcomes are “publicly accepted by candidates and acknowledged by the citizens with no setbacks,” is afflicted by the “politicization” of the electoral referee.

Although every electoral process is a political act, in Venezuela the Carter Center found evidence that politicization -understood as the dominance of politicians in areas that should not be controlled by them- is injuring electoral legitimacy in the country. The organism reports that even though “the CNE rectors were appointed for their professional experience, many Venezuelans perceive them as individuals with strong partisan affinities. Out of five current rectors, four, including the CNE’s president, are associated to (Hugo) Chávez’s government at different levels of solidarity, and only one is associated with the opposition. For this reason, the Carter Center concludes: “this politicization helps to explain the little enthusiasm with which CNE addressed some of the campaign issues, especially the one concerning campaign regulations, as well as the inconsistencies in the electoral body’s action to enforce them.”

The declaration from the Carter Center puts Venezuela in a privileged place before the world, as it acknowledges its advanced model of electronic voting based on technology produced by the Smartmatic company, which leaves no doubt about its transparent results. On the other hand, it singles out this model’s blatant flaws when it comes to ensuring trust from the citizens, based not only on successful technical and logistic practices, but also on the guarantee of delivering conditions as balanced as possible for the participation of the candidates to public posts.

The crossroads Venezuela is facing is not related to its having a high-quality voting system, supported and respected by all the electoral actors, because it does have it and the Carter Center so corroborates. This country’s fight is to eradicate the “improper advantage” sponsored by the electoral body in favor of the candidate in office, so that the technological strength that it has is not eclipsed by the political bias.