Caracas, November 23, 2006 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The three main international observer groups, for the upcoming December 3rd presidential election, from the Organization of American States, the Carter Center, and the European Union, have all arrived in Venezuela and began their work this week.
On Monday, the Carter Center representative, Héctor Vanolli, signed a memorandum of understanding with Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE). Following the signing of the agreement, Vanolli explained that the Carter Center’s observer mission will consist of a small and limited observer group that will focus on the computerized tabulation of the vote. The final report will thus also focus on the computerized vote and will also compare the Venezuelan procedure with that in other countries that use computer systems for voting and vote counting.
The Organization of American States (OAS) also launched its observer mission of about 60 observers today. Juan Enrique Fisher, a Uruguayan diplomat, who is the mission’s leader, held a press conference today, in which he read a statement from OAS General Secretary Miguel Insulza. According to the statement, Insulza assures that the OAS would call attention to “any important anomalies” in the election process.
Also, Insulza’s statement emphasized that the OAS mission would examine the vote count, “so that both the candidates as well as the observers have all the elements to allow them to verify the result.”
“We have come to reinforce and consolidate the guarantees of this process,” said Fisher, the OAS mission chief. He also said he still plans to meet with the presidential candidates Manuel Rosales and President Chavez.
The largest observer mission comes from the European Union (EU), with 130 observers. The delegation’s leader, Monica Frassoni, held a press conference yesterday, in which she said that according to the agreement the EU signed with the CNE, two EU observers will be allowed to “have access to all the counting processes and to all the things we might want to ask.”
EU observers have begun spreading out to 17 out of Venezuela’s 23 most populous states. The six least populated states will not have EU observers.
According to a report the EU wrote following its observation of the December 2005 National Assembly elections, which the opposition boycotted, Venezuela’s electronic voting system is one of the securest in the world. The report’s main criticism about the process then was that a sector of Venezuelan society does not trust the process.
Issues of trust and accusations of fraud have a long history in Venezuela, with the most recent being the opposition’s charge that the August 2004 recall referendum against President Chavez was fraudulent. The OAS and Carter Center, though, which observed that vote, declared that it was legitimate.
For the December 2005 National Assembly vote the opposition withdrew because they argued that the secrecy of the vote was not guaranteed because of the use of fingerprint scanning machines, which are supposed to prevent voters from casting more than one ballot. According to the opposition, both the scanners and the voting machines stored the order of the vote and if the data from the two machines could be matched, the vote’s secrecy could not be guaranteed.
Observers, though, declared the possibility of this happening as “remote” because the data can only be accessed with a password that the different political parties share. Also, the lines for the fingerprint scanning and the voting machines do not correspond to one another, thus making a comparison of the data from the two machines impossible.
For the upcoming presidential vote, though, the software has been changed, so that the order in which scans are made is no longer stored. Opposition leaders have thus now declared their willingness to use the scanners.