International Electoral Observers Report Irregularities with Opposition Plebiscite

The opposition electoral commission concluded that the secret ballot had not been guaranteed, while some voters may have cast multiple votes. 

By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas
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Opposition supporters vote in the opposition plebiscite on July 16th. (Courtesy/Carlos de Mesa Gisbert)
Opposition supporters vote in the opposition plebiscite on July 16th. (Courtesy/Carlos de Mesa Gisbert)

Nueva Esparta, July 27, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – An international electoral commission tasked with observing the Venezuelan opposition’s consultative referendum on July 16 has since highlighted several irregularities with the voting process.

The unofficial referendum was held by opposition legislators in rejection of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), called by the government on May 1 to rewrite the country's Constitution and bring an end to three months of violent anti-government unrest gripping the country.

Opposition spokespeople reported that seven million people had taken part in their plebiscite, which has been presented by foreign governments – including the Trump administration in the US – as proof that an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans do not support the ANC initiative. 

But the opposition-aligned international commission concluded that the plebiscite was not legitimate as an electoral process. In particular, members of the delegation, which included former Bolivian President Carlos de Mesa Gisbert and representatives of Latin American NGOs, cast doubt on the reliability of the the participation figures provided by the opposition, suggesting that voters may have voted more than once. 

“The non-use of the [official] electoral roll reduced the technical precision of the referendum to be able to establish with certainty the level of participation, and to guarantee that multiple votes were not cast,” states the committee report, published July 17th. 

The commission also reported that the plebiscite did not make use of a secret ballot, a standard procedure in internationally legitimated electoral processes. 

“On the other hand, the secret ballot lacked guarantees in voting centres. It was common for citizens to vote in front of voting booth organizers,” continues the report. 

Although delegates stated that it was difficult to ascertain how many people had participated on the day, they appeared to concur with opposition spokespeople that turnout was approximately seven million. Opposition organizers of the plebiscite burnt ballot papers shortly after votes were counted, citing the right to the secret ballot and preventing a possible audit.

Rather than being indicative of a generalized rejection of the ANC among the Venezuelan people, the electoral report also emphasized that most participants were opposition supporters. They concluded that the plebiscite was of a “political” as opposed to electoral nature. 

In other observations, the commission noted the high turnout among opposition supporters and the absence of political persecution against those involved. 

“In spite of the government’s rejections of the initiative called by the National Assembly, there was no interference on the part of the state against the referendum on the day, and there was even a call by President Maduro hours earlier for the activity to be carried out in an atmosphere of peace,” reads the document. 

Since the ANC was announced, the Venezuelan opposition has boycotted the process and refused to present candidates to stand in elections to the body, due to be held on July 30.  

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