The Facts About Venezuela’s Parliamentary Elections

The emphasis on the abstention figure to delegitimise the parliamentary elections and the new National Assembly is a political ploy to discredit the CNE and the elected representatives of the Venezuelans, and destabilize the country. This has been going on since December 10th 2001, when the first general strike was called.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the Venezuelan parliamentary election results and the circumstances surrounding them. Nevertheless, the “agenda” has been set by the corporate mass media to concentrate on the 70% – 75% abstention figure in an attempt to delegitimise the election results.

Facts belie accusations of electoral fraud

The often heard assertion that the Venezuelan National Election Council (CNE) is cheating lacks any sort of foundation. In their reports, the international observers of these elections from the EU and the OAS declared them fair and transparent, even though there was some criticism leveled at the CNE since 41% of the voters had problems understanding the automated system.

These reports do not even hint that the CNE was committing electoral or electronic fraud in any way whatsoever. In fact, 45% of the ballot boxes where printed confirmations were deposited by the voters were chosen at random, the boxes opened and the “paper trail” publicly counted in front of witnesses from all parties. All tallied with the electronic results broadcast by the voting machines.  

When Jimmy Carter declared the presidential referendum results fair and transparent last August 2004, he was booed and spat on by upper class opposition supporters in a restaurant in the swanky El Rosal district of Caracas. Hardly “democratic behaviour” The opposition media said at that time that Chavez had paid Carter US$1 million to “fix the results”!!

The opposition commits political suicide

There are many omissions in the mainstream Venezuelan national media and also international mass media. For example, before the opposition withdrew (the heads of five parties called on their candidates to withdraw and boycott the elections, then 50% of the opposition candidates still participated and got nowhere) the last opinion polls indicated that the Chavez alliance would have won around 150 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly. That is the reason why the opposition withdrew, to avoid an electoral beating (they held 76 seats before these elections) and vanish from the political map.

More voters supported the National Assembly – fact not fiction

Regarding the abstention figure of 70% – 75%, there are many reasons for this high figure – opposition voters not turning out, calls for abstention, an historical abstention figure of around 55% in such elections, parliamentary elections being held separately from presidential elections, Chavez supporters not voting since the result was a foregone conclusion based on the polls, torrential rain and adverse weather conditions on the day of the vote. However these elections were legal and politically, mathematically and objectively they are also more legitimate than recent parliamentary elections in Venezuela, contrary to what the opposition has asserted and omitted to mention. Why?

In 1998, the Democratic Action Party won control of the then Congress with 11.24% of voter support from an electoral universe of approximately 10.9 million voters. This party received 1.24 million votes. In the 2000 elections, the Chavez Fifth Republic Movement won control of the National Assembly with 17% or 1.98 million votes of the electoral universe of 11.7 million voters. In the elections on December 4th 2005, the six parties in the Chavez alliance received between 22% – 23% support of the electoral universe of 14.4 million voters or approximately 3.2 million votes.

Conclusion – no one in 1998 or 2000 even mentioned that the National Assembly was not “legitimate” being controlled by parties with 11.24% and 17% respectively. So, why are opposition right wingers saying that this National Assembly is not “legitimate” when 22% – 23% of the electoral universe supported it? Objectively and mathematically, it is more legitimate than the last two legislative bodies.  

All part of the same script

Therefore, this emphasis on the abstention figure to delegitimise the elections and the new National Assembly is a political ploy to discredit the CNE and the elected representatives of the Venezuelans, and destabilize the country. This has been going on since December 10th 2001, when the first general strike was called, followed by the coup d’état, economic and oil industry sabotage, organised street violence to cause chaos and these actions still continue to this day, since an oil pipeline was blown up in Zulia state just before the recent elections.

A perception of real democracy

Now that the six Chavez alliance parties have all 167 seats, the opposition will cry “foul” and that Chavez is a “dictator”. Absolute rubbish! My friends in Venezuela know that very few of their fellow countrymen think that way and it is a media invention to discredit the government, since 85% of the TV stations, radio stations and written press is controlled by the opposition.

A recent opinion poll by Latinobarometro http://www.purochile.org/inf2004l.pdf referred to by Chavez himself indicated that 74% of all Venezuelans were satisfied with their democratic system, compared to a 53% average in the rest of Latin America, and second only to Uruguay with 78%. If Chavez were considered to be “authoritarian” or a “dictator” by the Venezuelan public, this result from an independent polling organisation would have been impossible. 

State powers are autonomous –it’s in the 1999 Constitution

Constitutionally both the CNE and the National Assembly are separate autonomous parts of the Venezuelan state, as is the Judiciary, the Ombudsman and the Executive. Chavez controls the Executive – the other four powers are all constitutionally and legally autonomous. 

There is no hard evidence that Chavez is controlling the other state powers in a dictatorial or autocratic way. The “evidence” is in the opposition media and based on rumours, anecdotes and unsubstantiated opinions rather than facts, but repeat a falsehood a 1000 times and it will gain some credibility. Recent high court rulings have gone against the government. A good example are the Polar grain silos in Barinas state which were expropriated by the state governor’s decree (the Governor of this state is Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, the President’s father). This decree was subsequently overturned in the high court and the silos returned to the Polar Company.

Why the opposition was politically doomed

Since 2000, during the period of the last National Assembly, the opposition did not propose one single document for any new law. They only obstructed and sabotaged proceedings for five years. The new National Assembly will now be able to legislate for the good of the majority and not be forced to participate in the circus created by the opposition deputies. This behaviour and five years of irrational discourses all characterised with negative rhetoric against the government and the President in particular, laid the foundations for the political elimination of the traditional parties. Voters did not want that sort of National Assembly where laws were burned, fights broke out, deputies did not turn up to disrupt the quorum needed to legislate and a host of other obstructive measures.

More facts which are often omitted

Since 1998 10 election and/or referendums have been held in Venezuela and the Chavez alliance has wiped the floor with the opposition every time. The opposition lost by forfeit when 50% of their candidates withdrew and more tellingly called for voter abstention. For readers’ information based on solid facts, there were a total of 5,516 candidates and 556 officially withdrew – or just over 10%.

These are the facts and background behind the saga of the Venezuelan parliamentary elections and as a parallel and specifically in the case of the UK, few would call Euro MP’s or town councilors “illegitimate” because of low voter turnout.

Andy Goodall
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