On the interim presidency and the usurpation of power in Venezuela


venezuela-elecciones

Venezuela is experiencing a tragedy that is admitted around the world, and that in formal terms is cataloged as a complex humanitarian emergency. This crisis keeps citizens subdued by the impossibility of supplying their basic needs and rights, while political confrontation rages on and the outcome is uncertain.

Currently, the president of the National Assembly (AN), Juan Guaidó, is exercising the interim presidency of Venezuela after declaring the usurpation of the presidency of Venezuela by Nicolás Maduro. According to the National Assembly and the international community, the election of Maduro in May 2018 lacked any legitimacy, while the provisional presidency of Guaidó has been recognized by more than 50 countries.

The reason why some elections have been recognized by the international community as legitimate, while others have not received such a blessing, lies in the way in which such electoral processes were managed.

Guaidó, along with 166 other AN deputies, was elected in December 2015 in what is now regarded as the last legitimate election held in Venezuela. All previous elections held in the country since 2004 were based on the automated voting model that allowed this nation, mired in bloody political unrest for 20 years, to hold more than a dozen successful elections without any numerical inconsistencies, overcoming doubts about their results.

The results of those 2015 parliamentary elections were unquestionable. It is precisely this legitimacy of origin that allows Juan Guaidó to try to rescue Venezuela, following institutional guidelines.

In the case of the election of the “National Constituent Assembly” (ANC) of 2017, a body with no constitutional backing, the electoral process broke away from the dynamics that had been built in the country. The actions adopted by the CNE were questioned by experts and politicians inside and outside the nation. Even Smartmatic, the company that for 14 years had provided the electoral technology, publicly denounced that the CNE announced different results than those arrived at by the automated voting system. After this denunciation, and after having assisted the electoral authorities in 15 elections, in February 2018 the company ceased operations in Venezuela, closed its offices, and did not participate in any further elections in the country.

Subsequently, during the elections of governors held in October 2017, many other irregularities were committed and denounced. The Venezuelan Electoral Observatory (OEV), in addition to ruling that the CNE “acted in the interests of the Government’s political interests”, also inventoried the anomalies detected before Election Day and during the voting proper. A lapidary case was that of State Bolivar, where the authorities refused to have the system transmit the results, and proceeded to manually alter the tally. For the first time in an automated election, records were found printed by the voting machines that did not match the totals published through the tabulation system.

All these irregularities have caused a deep damage to the Venezuelan electoral system, furnishing ample reasons why the confidence in the electoral institution has decreased sharply. Added to this, the complaint made by the Smartmatic company marked a milestone in the country’s electoral processes. Subsequent elections such as those of the ANC in July 2017 and the election of May 20, 2018 in which Nicolas Maduro was re-elected have been dismissed by the nation at large, and also by a great number of countries.

In the framework of discussions for the restoration of democracy, some political analysts have mentioned that elections must be held that meet the parameters established by law. In order to accomplish this, a series of actions are required, such as: the appointment of new electoral authorities, a key element of the discussion; the purging of the voter registry; the updating of the whole database of Venezuelan citizenry; and to reinstate at least 19 audits to the automated electoral system.

It will depend on the joint effort of authorities, political actors and voters that Venezuela once again enjoys reliable, functional and safe elections that make it impossible that the schemes of May 20, 2018 or July 30, 2017 get repeated.

In the midst of this bleak outlook, more and more countries are joining the chorus of nations calling for an electoral solution, one which really guarantees fair competitiveness and the alternation in power of political actors. It is opportune to weigh how the use of electoral technology, with full audit capabilities that apply to the entire automated process, could be used as part of an eventual solution to the grave situation in Venezuela.

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to fail in its elections


Elecciones Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, things have not been going well in electoral matters for a long time, and the elections of December 30, 2018 were not the exception. Rather, they proved that without a suitable protocol for technology adoption, there is no way the will of the people gets to be respected.

In that sense, the General Elections at the end of the year continue to yield bad news, because one of the presidential candidates, Martin Fayulu, who finished second in the contest, cried fraud hardly more than two weeks after the event, in which machines were used to vote.

The politician argued before the Constitutional Court that the results were tampered with. While the complaint is investigated, it must be said that this electoral process started rather badly, and unfortunately ended the same way.

Last year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) contracted directly, that is, without bidding, with the South Korean company Miru System, Ltd to provide 110,000 voting machines. The devices provided by the Korean firm suffered serious problems during Election Day by the end of December, and in addition they did not manage to deliver the results in time, and neither in a transparent and safe form, because it was only after several days had passed that the results were revealed, which today have been passed as valid.

Miru System Ltd is a company with limited electoral experience, so it was counterproductive and out of the norm to opt in favor of a company that could not prove it was capable of preserving the integrity of the vote. Today, it is being investigated in its own country for alleged cases of bribes.

This decision was expensive for the country, for example The electoral mission of the Catholic Church reported serious incidents, as 38% of the more than 40,000 polling stations observed were missing various electoral materials, in fact even after the election was well advanced there were still many cases of missing supplies.

Another element of very negative impact on the voting process is that 23% of the observers of the Catholic Church testified that the voting had to be stopped at some point during the electoral meeting, due to flaws in the voting machines.

Given this situation, it is necessary for the authorities to consider taking vital steps to meet the challenge of giving a turn to the way in which the vote is exercised. No guarantees will be in excess, on the contrary, being exhaustive will be helpful to shield the implementation process, and therefore the electronic voting model selected.

Among the most repeated recommendations of the experts is adopting the new technology facing the country while covering all stages (establishment of the legal regulatory framework, the search and selection of the most convenient system, fair and thorough bidding, full testing,), so that absolutely no aspects of the project stays hidden from the public’s scrutiny.

In turn, It is essential to bring forward a tender complying with the highest standards- -something which was not fulfilled in the case of the Congo with the Miru Systems company. It is essential that an international summons of electoral technology vendors be made, so they may prove their experience in the field and that they are capable of furnishing and supporting a flexible electronic voting model meeting the legal, technical, financial, and even idiosyncratic needs of the nation.

Another aspect to consider is that when starting the search and comparison of offers, it is essential to evaluate the local reigning infrastructure and any limitations that may arise (electric, telephone and data services, communication channels, among others); as well as evaluate the sustainability of the automated model (applicability over time).

There are some other vital aspects, such as the need to apply pilot runs that test the the selected model’s reliability and degree of adaptation to the characteristics of the country, and whether it is auditable.

In the Congo none of these recommendations were heeded, so as long as the mistakes are not corrected, and until the selection of technology responds clearly to the nation’s interest to acquire a system that guarantees the security, secrecy and transparency of the vote, electors will not be able to benefit from the main advantages of electronic voting, namely, to be secure, fast and auditable.

 

Peaceful, transparent and credible elections: A key event for the Democratic Republic of Congo


Angolan UNITA presidential candidate Isaias Samakuva campaignImagen: ISS Today

In recent months, political tensions and insecurity have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), due to demonstrations against the continuousness of Joseph Kabila in power. And although the political attention, both national and international, continues to focus on confidence-building measures and on the advances toward the electoral process on December 23, credibility in the authorities and in the electoral process continues to deteriorate.

Note: This blog always is in favor of the implementation of technology aimed at improving elections, but such a crucial endeavor must follow certain rules and be done correctly from the start. Experience teaches us that when such a project starts from a slanted or rigged selection or tender, results are never satisfactory.

Issues such as having electoral registration data manipulated, excuses of alleged difficulties in registering the Congolese living abroad, and the hiring –with no previous bidding-  of voting machines from South Korean Miru System Ltd, a company without any significant and verifiable experience, are some of the concerns that the main opposition leaders have recently denounced, casting doubts over carrying out a transparent electoral process, which has been twice postponed since 2016, and was again postponed in 2017.

In February Nikki Haley, the US ambassador before the United Nations, declared: “Introducing an unfamiliar technology for the first time during a crucial election is an enormous risk”, referring to the introduction of voting machines from the South Korean company Miru, which have not been used in previous elections in other countries. In addition, the company is under investigation by its own country’s authorities for alleged cases of bribery through the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB). According to several notes in countries where A-WEB operates, this association disguises the sale of voting machines provided by Miru under supposed training and consulting services to electoral commissions.

In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Election Commission of South Korea (NEC) itself expressed concern over the use of Miru’s voting machines during the December presidential elections. In a statement to the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante , CENI), NEC voiced serious concerns about the introduction (of these machines), stating that the unstable political situation and a vulnerable environment, which includes a high illiteracy rate, a weak electrical infrastructure, and deplorable road conditions, can lead to machine malfunctions.

As a result, the political opposition of the Democratic Republic of Congo has requested South Korea and the USA the suspension of the contract that links the Independent National Electoral Commission of the DRC with Miru System, and the blocking of its bank accounts.

The DRC is one of the most volatile and complex regions of Africa, however, achieving peace and balance could contribute to the stability and development of the African continent, says Said Djinniten, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the region. of Central Africa. The government representatives of countries such as the USA, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and South Korea have also expressed their concerns in recognizing that carrying out peaceful, transparent and credible elections in the DRC represents a key point in the direction of the African continent.

That is why CENI, the DRC electoral commission, must work adroitly to ensure that both voting and counting are carried out smoothly. The implementation of technology could (and should) among other things improve voter registration, allow citizens to vote from abroad, facilitate the voting process, swiftly provide reliable preliminary results, and allow multiple audits that furnish tranquility and confidence to citizens. Let’s hope that the accusations and the fears about Miru are more about the mistakes for their hiring (in several countries already) and not about the performance of their technology.