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.

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