Caracas, Venezuela, December 7, 2005—While the December 4 National Assembly election appears to have been clean, the withdrawal of the opposition and low voter turnout demonstrates distrust in the voting system, said the Organization of American States (OAS) and European Union (EU) in separate preliminary reports released yesterday.
“As a result of Sunday’s observation, the Mission would like to underscore the climate of calm that was evident during the elections, as well as the adequate level of preparation and organization at the polling centers,” said the OAS release.
The EU Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) statement echoed the OAS’s. “Election Day passed peacefully with a low turnout. While the observers noted several irregularities in the voting procedures, the manual audit of the voting receipts revealed a high reliability of the voting machines,” it said.
Both groups praised the concessions of the Venezuelan Electoral Council (CNE) to the opposition, saying that they made the voting process more secure. “The CNE, in a positive attempt to restore confidence in the electoral process, took significant steps to open the automated voting system to external scrutiny and to modify various aspects that were questioned by the opposition,” said the EU.
The measures included the elimination of fingerprint capturing machines and a manual recount of 45 percent of the polling stations. “The possibility of endangerment of the secrecy of the vote was evaluated by EU EOM experts as remote,” said the European Union’s statement.
Despite this, the group said, “Wide sectors of the Venezuelan society do not have trust in the electoral process and in the independence of the electoral authority.”
The OAS’s statement reiterated that concern. “There remains a distrust of the CNE on the part of a significant segment of the opposition.”
The groups took slightly different stances on the opposition boycott of the election. In light of the concessions of the CNE, “It was…with surprise that the EU EOM took note at this stage of the withdrawal of the main opposition political parties from the electoral contest without any new additional motivation,” the EU’s release stated.
On this point the OAS was more critical of the CNE. “Electoral participation is what contributes to the strengthening of democracy and the legitimacy of representative institutions. It is up to the electoral authorities to generate the necessary conditions for the full participation of all sectors,” said the OAS’s statement.
The EU also noted the lack of campaigning by opposition as a problem. “Central electoral campaign themes such as economics and tax policies, the importance of social programs, the role of the private sector in the economy or environmental policies were missing from the political parties’ public interventions,” said the statement.
“This Mission considers that it would be highly beneficial for Venezuelan democracy if…government authorities, political parties and citizens could, in the near future, reach a new democratic consensus,” the OAS added.