Mérida, 26th January 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena reported on Wednesday that the CNE, which organises and oversees elections in Venezuela, is fully prepared for the upcoming 2012 – 2013 electoral period. “We say to the country that we are ready…all that remains is to put that thorough planning into practise,” she stated.
Between October 2012 and April 2013 Venezuelans will vote in three national elections, beginning with the presidential election scheduled for 7 October, then state governor and legislative elections on 16 December, followed by municipal elections in April 2013.
Lucena announced that the CNE already has 12,000 new voting machines and 15,000 activation devices. These form part of an upgrade to Venezuela’s electronic voting system, called the Automated Integration System (SAE), in which after activating the voting machine with fingerprint verification technology voters can directly press on the machine’s screen to select and confirm their voting choices.
The CNE president also reported that there are currently 18,338,913 voters on Venezuela’s electoral register, with registrations continuing at 1,300 points situated across the country. Nationally there are 14,055 voting centres, with more to be installed after the registration period closes in April.
Dario Araujo, an electoral registration official who has worked as a technical support officer for the CNE, explained to Venezuelanalysis.com that the new system “will accelerate and increase the security of the voting process,” while warning against an opposition campaign to discredit the new system.
Meanwhile Jesse Chacon, director of the 21st Century Social Research Group (GISXXI), commented that Venezuela’s electoral system is “from a technological point of view, the most advanced in the world” because of the SAE.
While the final timetable will be announced by the CNE on 15 March, the organisation’s draft document establishes the formal start of the presidential election campaign on 1July, lasting until 4 October. There is no campaigning in Venezuela on Election Day.
Tibisay Lucena also denounced recent attacks against the CNE by certain members of the Venezuelan opposition as “political strategies adopted by some [members of the opposition], not all of them, [but] it must be said some of them are opposition [presidential] pre-candidates”.
The CNE is overseeing the opposition primary elections to be held on 12 February, in which the country’s opposition will choose a single candidate to face Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the October presidential elections.
On Wednesday morning this week opposition presidential hopeful Diego Arria called for a massive vote in the opposition primaries. In his press conference, he declared the CNE as “the office of electoral fraud, the electoral office of the Head of State [Chavez], and it represents an obstacle that, if we don’t confront, will make our victory impossible. In three years I’ll dismantle this system”.
The CNE president responded to the criticisms by stating that “in reality, they’re not attacks against the CNE, but underhand attacks against Venezuelan democracy. In this country people exercise their suffrage in a civic manner every time they vote”. She added that at one time or another every political force in Venezuela had won and lost under the CNE.
Lucena further called upon all political groupings to respect the CNE and commit themselves to recognise the results of the upcoming elections.
Chacon cited that the CNE is one of the most highly valued institutions in the country with more than 50% approval among the population, alongside universities, the armed forces, and the church.
The opposition has previously attacked the impartiality of the CNE after the 2004 opposition-initiated recall referendum against Hugo Chavez, in which the Venezuelan president had his mandate was ratified by 59% of voters. Election observers from the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Carter Centre confirmed results as accurate and that no fraud had taken place.