Caracas, 3 September 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Over 10% of Venezuela's 18.9 million registered voters turned out to take part in an election day practice-run onSunday, which allowed the country's citizens to try out voting machines at electoral centres across the country.
The “mock” elections as they are known in Venezuela are a chance for the country's National Electoral Council (CNE) to test all electronic equipment ahead of the presidential elections and also an opportunity for first time voters to familiarise themselves with Venezuela's automated electoral machines. The country moved to a 100% automated voting system in 2008.
Speaking on national television following the event, chancellor of the CNE Socorrro Hernandez commented on the efficiency of the test-run and said that the day had taken place without glitches.
“We had a huge level of participation on a national level and the exercise fulfilled its objective, which was to fine tune all of the details involved in the process,” she stated.
Hernandez went on to confirm that 99% of the votes had already been counted by 8 pm the same day, although she stressed that the results would not be revealed to the public.
Nonetheless, teams of volunteers supporting the revolution were present at voting centres across the country to manually record the Chavista vote. According to the Venezuelan news site YVKE, the percentage of the votes in favour of Chavez ranged from 74% in the state of Portuguesa to 50% in Nueva Esparta. Votes cast for the opposition candidate, Capriles Radonski, ranged between 11% and 36%.
Venezuelan news agencies have noted the substantial turnout of Sunday's trial run, with some Venezuelans queuing for over half an hour in order to be able to vote.
Special arrangements were also put in place to ensure that disabled citizens and the elderly were able to take part in the run-through, with the majority being personally accompanied to voting centres.
In the lower-class area of Carapita, polling stations were packed with voters throughout the day. Many arrived via public transport or on the jeeps provided by the government to ferry people to and from voting centres.
(Yolanda Escalona, 38, Carapita)
“It's incredibly important for all Venezuelans to familiarise themselves with the machines, so that there are no problems on the 7th of October.... so that when people arrive they won't be lost, without knowing what to do,” said Yolanda Escalona, 38, in Carapita.
Whilst a number of voters arrived in red shirts to show their support for the current PSUV government (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), both the opposition and PSUV supporters set up nearby stalls where they chanted slogans and handed out electoral propaganda.
Many young Venezuelans were present at the PSUV stall and danced energetically to songs about the revolution, the president and popular power. The majority of the teenagers had been involved in the government's summer vacation plan, a scheme in which youth leader volunteers provide cultural and sporting activities to1.5 million children from poor backgrounds during the holiday period.
“Before, being young meant nothing, now there is inclusion,” said Roxani Angarita, 17, Montalban. “We never used to have the opportunities that we have now,” added her friend, Jesus Muro, 18.
The teenagers said that they had decided to attend the election day to show their support for Chavez and his government's inclusive policies for young people.
Sunday's practice-run was supervised by the CNE, as well as the National Guard.
Reactions in Venezuela
Supporters of the current United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) government have described the day as a triumph for the revolution, whilst the political opposition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) have touted the day as a failure for the Chavez government.
At a press conference on Monday, the coordinator of Radonski's electoral campaign, Leopoldo Lopez, criticised voter turnout at the drill.
“It was a poor effort,” stated Lopez. “Their strategy was to call on people to go out to vote en masse and what we can observe is that they didn't mobilise as many people as they should have. Less than 2 million people voted. The brute force of the PSUV is 2 million.”
Although the electoral rehearsal is open to all voters, many Venezuelans see the day as an opportunity to express support for the current Chavez administration.