International Observers Ratify Transparency and Legitimacy of Venezuelan Vote

Election observers from the electoral commissions of several Latin American countries held a press conference yesterday, in which they argued that the boycott of several opposition parties does not affect the legitimacy of the National Assembly vote.

Caracas, Venezuela, December 4, 2005—Yesterday, international observers from the electoral commissions of El Salvador, Colombia, Panama, Uruguay, and Nicaragua declared their support of the National Assembly vote taking place in Venezuela today. “Democracy is constructed by those who participate, thus the withdrawal … of the opposition parties does not delegitimize the parliamentary elections,” said Eugenio Chicas, a magistrate of the electoral council of El Salvador.

In the past week, four important opposition publicly declared their boycott of the December 4 election for the country’s legislature, the National Assembly, citing lack of trust in the National Electoral Council. President Chavez and his supporters, though, say that their withdrawal is an effort to delegitimize the vote in the face of near-certain defeat at the polls. While the parties that withdrew are among the country’s largest, the Electoral Council announced that only 10% of the candidates up for election had formalized their withdrawal.

According to Chicas, the opposition boycott “in no way” delegitimizes the vote because the observers believe that there are adequate technical conditions and is one of the most audited and certified votes in Latin America.

The magistrate of the electoral council of Panama, Erasmo Pinilla, said that the withdrawal of key opposition parties from the National Assembly election “is unheard of in the Latin American continent,” especially after Venezuela’s National Electoral Council conceded to the opposition’s demand not to use the fingerprint scanners.

For Pinilla, though, the removal of the fingerprint scanner represents a serious step backwards because it is “fundamental” for transparency because it guarantees that no one votes more than once.

Pinilla went on to explain that the opposition party Primero Justicia, which withdrew in the last minute, despite earlier assurances it would participate, was largely due to concerns it had about conflict with the other opposition parties that had already declared their withdrawal. Also Primero Justicia does not have sufficient elections observers to replace the opposition observers that would no longer be participating because of the other parties’ withdrawal.