Caracas, February 23, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The Electoral Observer Mission of the European Union (EUEOM) concluded that Venezuela’s presidential elections of last December were, “held in respect of national laws and international standards.” The report, which Mission Chief Monica Frassoni presented on Friday, also listed a number of ways in which future elections could be improved, such as by limiting government advertising in favor of one candidate.
While the final report “applauds the efforts made by the CNE Board, the political parties, and civil society movements in creating sufficient conditions to be able to hold elections accepted by all involved stakeholders,” it also criticizes “the existence of strong institutional publicity, unbalanced news coverage by the media, and the participation of public servants in the campaign…”
The EU EOM involved 154 observers from European Union member states, who were dispatched to 17 out of Venezuela’s 23 states.
The positive aspects of the elections of December 3rd, which incumbent President Hugo Chavez won with 63% of the vote, included the electoral registry, which, despite strong criticism from opposition leaders, “was a legally valid instrument…”
Also, the EU observers concluded that the electronic voting system “is efficient, secure and auditable, and the competence of the technical experts is in line with its advanced technological level.” Some opposition groups, such as the former governing party Acción Democrática (Democratic Action), had questioned the reliability of the voting machines, saying that they are used to falsify the election result.
Another criticism had been the fingerprint scanners, which critics claimed could be used to identify how voters vote. The scanners are necessary, according to the National Electoral Council to prevent people from voting more than once. The EU observers concurred, saying, “the fingerprint reading devices (captahuellas) neither violate the secrecy of the vote, nor are a source of fraud.”
However, despite these positive aspects of the vote, EU report identified several problem areas, such as, “the existence of strong institutional publicity, unbalanced news coverage by the media, and the participation of public servants in the campaign.”
The EU observers conducted a detailed analysis of the media coverage of the campaign and concluded:
- Despite the clear indications included in the laws and relevant electoral resolutions, the great majority of the media, both public and private, did not comply with their obligations, offering information that was often biased and partisan, and openly supporting one or another of the main presidential candidates. As a result, they did not provide the voters with a balanced or comprehensive vision of the different election platforms of the various candidates.
- The excessive resort to various forms of institutional propaganda (publicity paid by a State institution, such as a Ministry, a public corporation or regional or local authorities) played in favour of the President and candidate, Hugo Chavez’s campaign. To a much lesser extent, the EU EOM also noted the existence of institutional information, in the State of Zulia, in favour of the governor of that state, and presidential candidate, Manuel Rosales.
Also, the report complains that the CNE did not issue any sanctions against the media for its violations. However, on the plus side, the report praises that President Chavez suspended his weekly television program Aló Presidente during the campaign period and drastically limited the number of national broadcasts that all broadcasters must transmit.
The EU report concludes with a broad series of recommendations for improving Venezuela’s electoral process, such as the development of a more coherent legal framework for elections, that campaign violations be strictly sanctioned, that the electoral registry be further improved, that institutional publicity and the public activity of public servants be strictly limited during the campaign period, and that the media regulate its coverage itself more, so as to limit biased reporting, among other suggested measures.
National Electoral Council (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena said she was pleased with the EU report, saying that all observers, including from the Carter Center and the Organization of American states as well as the people “recognized the administration” of the Electoral Council and that they “were auditable as never before.”