Government and Opposition Laud Successful Test of Voting System Ahead of Venezuelan Municipal Elections

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has described yesterday’s test-run of the voting system a “success” ahead of upcoming municipal elections. 

By Ewan Robertson
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According to the CNE around 500,000 citizens across 421 voting centres participated in the simulation, which tested the functioning of the electronic voting system and the transmission and totalling of voting data. (AVN)
According to the CNE around 500,000 citizens across 421 voting centres participated in the simulation, which tested the functioning of the electronic voting system and the transmission and totalling of voting data. (AVN)

Mérida, 21st October 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has described yesterday’s test-run of the voting system a “success” ahead of upcoming municipal elections.

According to the CNE around 500,000 citizens across 421 voting centres participated in the simulation which tested the functioning of the electronic voting system and the transmission and totalling of voting data.

The simulation also allowed citizens to familiarise themselves with the voting card to be used in the election and the CNE to measure the average time required for each citizen to vote.

In a press note yesterday the CNE said the simulation was “satisfactory” and had “fulfilled its objectives”.

CNE president Tibisay Lucena further praised high citizen participation in the rehearsal vote, commenting that it was higher than similar exercises in the past.“Its great news, it’s excellent, because it means that people are showing great interest in this election,” the electoral official told press.

Venezuela’s electronic voting system has received international recognition, with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter of the Carter Centre electoral NGO describing it as “the best electoral system in the world”.

However the voting system has come under attack from the country’s conservative opposition. After the 14 April presidential election this year opposition candidate Henrique Capriles claimed that electoral fraud had been committed when President Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner. Both the CNE and the Supreme Court rejected the claim, saying Capriles lacked evidence with which to support such an accusation.

Today the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition reported its satisfaction with the functioning of the voting system.

“The simulation was very positive. The system worked as expected and this afternoon we’ll have the complete evaluation of the day,” said Ramon Jose Medina, a representative of the MUD’s electoral commission.

In what appears to be an isolated incident, the only problem reported from the simulation was in the El Hatillo neighbourhood in Caracas. There the opposition mayoral candidate claimed an irregularity in the functioning of some voting machines, which he has asked the CNE to investigate.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro also praised the electoral simulation, in particular congratulating the mobilisation efforts of the pro-government Great Patriotic Pole coalition, which he described as a “total success”.

Campaigns launched

Campaigning is now underway for the 8 December municipal elections, in which voters will choose 335 mayors, 2,435 municipal councillors, 69 local indigenous representatives, 2 metropolitan mayors and 20 district councils.

The elections are the first since Nicolas Maduro was elected president in April following the death of Hugo Chavez.

With turnout likely to be lower than the higher profile presidential election, the government is focusing on getting the “core” Chavista vote out and maintaining control of a majority of mayoralties.

Meanwhile the opposition is attempting to paint the municipal elections as a national “plebiscite” on the Maduro administration.

Both political forces are also focused on key battles for high profile mayoralties in the big cities such as Caracas and Maracaibo.

For the mayoralty of Metropolitan Caracas the government is trying to unseat opposition incumbent Antonio Ledezma, and have put forward former information minister Ernesto Villegas.

Villegas has promised to “improve the quality of life”  of inhabitants of Greater Caracas by working with all of the 17 municipalities of the region in an integrated way.

Ledezma has said that if re-elected his priority will be “food, education, security and jobs”, arguing that “progress is just around the corner”.