Caracas, February 26th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The president of the Venezuelan opposition’s electoral committee has been fined for violating a court order halting the destruction of electoral material following the opposition’s primaries earlier this month.
According to the Venezuelan Supreme Court, Carmen Teresa Albanez, will have to pay a fine of 15,200 bolivars (US$3,500) for having defied the court’s instructions to hand over election material to Venezuela’s independent National Electoral Council (CNE), after the opposition primaries were marred by reports of voter manipulation and fraud.
The court order, which was issued in order to investigate alleged irregularities, was reportedly flouted by Albanez, who refused to comply on the grounds that the material had already been burnt.
As official coordinator of the opposition elections, her actions have drawn criticism for not only defying court orders, but also for having destroyed electoral material in violation of Venezuelan law, which specifies that voting records cannot be destroyed for a period of 48 hours following elections.
The court’s decision to fine Albanez has been backed by Venezuelan attorneys such as Minnory Martinez, who has stated that the move is in full accordance with national law.
“When the order not to destroy the electoral material was given to the MUD’s electoral committee president, she should have obeyed and complied with the measure. She did the opposite and disobeyed the instructions intentionally” said Martinez, adding that the coordinator’s actions had frustrated attempts to review official evidence.
On February 12th, supporters of Venezuela’s opposition umbrella group, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity, took to polling stations in order to choose their preferred candidate to face incumbent president Hugo Chavez in this year’s presidential elections. Despite minimal incidents on the day itself, the results of the elections have been highly contested, with opposition candidate Rafael Velásquez Becerr in the state of Yaracuy alleging that foul play had taken place at his polling station.
In an official complaint lodged with Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Becerr asked the body to review the votes, expressing doubts over the validity of their results. In his complaint, Becerr maintains that he entered one voting booth where there were “more votes than voters”.
Suspicions have also been cast on the MUD’s claims that over 3 million people turned out to vote in the elections, with government supporters and officials claiming that this is a gross exaggeration. As well as describing the number as a mathematical impossibility, given the amount of voting machines available on the day, critics also cite a leaked email from Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, secretary of the MUD, which states that only 765,790 votes had been cast by 3.52 pm on Sunday night.
Although Albanez has maintained that the voting material was destroyed in order to protect the secret vote, other opposition members such as long-time politician, William Ojeda, have expressed their concerns about the legitimacy of the results, describing them as “doubtful” and “unclear”.
The Supreme Court will now send the case to Venezuela’s attorney general, who will ascertain whether Albanez should face further investigations.