|Venezuelan democracy: "The best in the world."
The best in the world. That's what Jimmy Carter called the election system in Venezuela, noting that the Carter Center has monitored 92 elections.
Susan Scott and Azadeh Shahshahani of the National Lawyers Guild were among the 220 international parliamentarians, election officials, academics, journalists, and judges present in Venezuela as observers of the presidential elections last Sunday. They write:
What makes Venezuela’s electoral system stand out resides in a combination of factors. The Bolivarian project of “21st Century Socialism” and Latin American integration, initiated by Hugo Chavez and his supporters after his first election in 1998, is a fundamentally democratic project. Chavez has repeatedly emphasized that its legitimacy and viability lies in the will of the people as expressed in free and fair elections. The 1999 Bolivarian Constitution was itself drafted by an assembly of elected members with significant popular input and was adopted in a national referendum by a 72% popular vote. It provides for an independent National Electoral Council (CNE), chosen by the elected National Assembly (Congress), and with a constitutional status equal to the other four branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial, and Poder Ciudadano, “People’s Power,” which includes the Attorney General, Human Rights Defender, and Comptroller General). The Constitution provides for more than the election of political representatives – there are provisions for referenda to change the Constitution (used in 2007 and 2009), referenda to abrogate laws, and even for recall of the president (attempted in 2004).
As more and more elections are conducted under the CNE’s leadership (28 since the Bolivarian Constitution) and more electoral laws and regulations passed, the electoral system has become increasingly trusted and respected by the Venezuelan populace. The system has been used by unions to elect leadership and even by the opposition to elect its standard bearer in a primary last February (also witnessed by an NLG delegation).
Since the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez and the 1999 adoption of the Bolivarian Constitution, voter registration has climbed from 11 million in 1998 to almost 19 million today, as a result of a robust registration program throughout the country, targeting the country’s poorest communities. The number of polling places has increased from 20,202 in 1998 to 38, 239 in 2012.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the Venezuelan electoral system is the technology used to record, verify, and transmit the votes. The technology provides for accessible electronic voting with a verifiable paper trail and instant transmission of vote counts from remote locations to CNE headquarters. CNE’s anti-hacking and multiple transparent audit and identity authentication systems have put to rest past opposition claims of fraud. At each of the polling stations we visited, there were observers present representing both the Capriles and the Chavez camps. The observers expressed satisfaction with the integrity and transparency of the process, regardless of their political affiliation.
I'm not entirely convinced by any electronic system, but I am convinced that Venezuelans are aware of the potential troubles with any such system, to a much greater extent than any of the US states who use a hodge-podge of different corporate-owned systems. They understand that the vote can be hacked, there must be a full paper trail and multiple authentication systems.
The authors go on to note that Venezuela does not regard elections as a field for cutting costs, and has invested enormous sums in building up this system. Capriles conceded freely and had to accept the fairly counted result. The majority chose Chavez, once again.
Venezuela is obviously far ahead of our own country in guaranteeing the integrity and fairness of elections. But this is the country that is defamed by US and some European propaganda and corporate-owned media as a dictatorship! Meanwhile, Colombia may with some luck emerge from decades of death-squad governments backed by US taxpayer money, and Mexico unfortunately looks like it's not going to soon back down from a US-backed drug war that has turned that country into a narco state where military and paramilitary death squads directly involved with the cartels murder tens of thousands of people.