Mérida, September 28th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In response to accusations by the opposition that the electoral districts were gerrymandered to favor the governing party in Sunday’s National Assembly elections, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) said on Tuesday that the districts were defined according to a standard legal method that was not designed to benefit any particular party.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of drawing electoral districts in a way that over-represents rural areas, which are strongholds of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and under-represents major urban centers where supporters of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) are concentrated.
While a final vote tally for Sunday’s elections is not available, unofficial estimates indicate that the PSUV and the MUD were virtually tied in terms of total votes received, while the PSUV won 98 seats in the National Assembly and the MUD won 65.
In an interview with Telesur on Tuesday, CNE director Socorro Hernández said the discrepancy between the total votes and the number of seats won by each party occurred by chance. “The districts were not changed in favor of anyone. They are in accordance with the Electoral Processes Law,” Hernández said in a televised interview on Tuesday.
According to Venezuela’s electoral system, some National Assembly seats are contested nominally, meaning individual candidates compete and the one who receives the most votes wins. Other seats are contested by political parties which are granted candidates proportional to the amount of votes they receive. In Sunday’s elections, 110 representatives were elected nominally and 52 were elected by political party. The final three go to elected indigenous legislators.
Hernández acknowledged that this system has the potential for a degree of disproportional representation, and she said both the PSUV and the MUD had benefitted from this in Sunday’s election. She pointed out that the PSUV received at least 40% of the votes in the states of Zulia, Anzoátegui, Nueva Esparta, and Táchira, but the opposition won a total of 27 seats in those states compared to seven for the PSUV.
“Are these cases of favoritism for the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD)? No. The method defined it that way,” Hernández said. “The results should be reviewed and compared to the law. It is the method which everybody must abide by.”
This method mandates that there be a minimum of three legislators per state, Hernández explained. The total number of legislators for any given legislative term varies in proportion to the population of the country. The number of legislators who will be nominally elected is determined by dividing the total number of residents in any given district by 1.1% of the national population, according to AVN.
Hernández also congratulated the Venezuelan people for having achieved a 66.45% voter turnout rate and maintained a peaceful and respectful environment on Sunday. She announced that the team of 150 international observers turned in a report to the CNE complementing the council for its efforts to increase voter participation and to facilitate the voting process by placing extra machines in highly populated districts.
The Electoral Processes Law was passed in 2009 by the National Assembly, which at the time was almost 100% pro-government because the opposition boycotted the previous National Assembly election. Some opposition analysts have argued that the law is inconsistent with the principle of proportional representation, which is mandated in Article 63 of the Venezuelan Constitution. Article 63 states: “The law shall guarantee the principle of personalization of suffrage and proportional representation.”