Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Electoral registry irregularities and Perez Oramas on the uselessness of voting

Yesterday EL Nacional published a very interesting article by Perez Oramas on, among other things, how the regime has gutted the act of voting of any meaning. But to understand it better I should discuss first the results published today by the audit of the three main Venezuelan universities (UCV, UCAB and USB) on the Venezuelan registry.

The “real” audit

It has long been agreed (1) that the sorry state of the Venezuelan electoral registry is one of the main ways into which the regime can cheat at election time. So many irregularities have been pointed out (almost as many 100+ year old folks as in the USA for 1/10th of the population, hundreds of thousand living at the same address, too many districts where there are more electors than inhabitants, etc…) that this registry was considered a joke, the source of all cheating.

Thus, in an effort to restore some trust in voting, three of the main Venezuelan universities offered to do an audit of the electoral registry. The Venezuelan electoral board, CNE, a rather outrageous pro Chavez agency, felt trapped into accepting it and decided to muddle the issue by inviting to the audit all universities, in particular the ones whose presidents are directly named by the government, and thus more than likely to be pro Chavez (amen of the less than low technical reputation of some of the universities “invited” to submit an audit proposal, 2). Sure enough, UCAB, UCV and USB, three autonomous universities with the skills, personnel and means to make the audit refused to play along in this charade and set up shop apart. Not surprisingly, the Mickey Mouse audit is still not over but the one by the three real universities is and the results are out. They are not too surprising.

One thing to keep in mind is that the “independent” audit was done with one “hand tied in the back”. That is, the three universities had to use old pre 2005 electoral rolls to perform such an audit. In addition many data were missing, some of the comparative tools that should be offered in a normal country where statistics are widely open and usually verifiable were missing. Still, one can do a significant audit that could determine whether a real and complete audit is deserved. The answer is a yes, there were enough significant irregularities found that the Electoral Registry of Venezuela should at the very least be comprehensively evaluated and likely overhauled.

However the three university panel also says that there is no reason that these irregularities should compromise the presidential election. They do suggest that, yes, at the level of local elections the nature of the current electoral registry could falsify the real results, but on an election for the country at large, it is not enough. I translate in more concrete terms, away from the necessary “diplomatese” of these universities that still need to get grant monies: if a real post electoral audit immediately after the vote is done, the messed up electoral registry would not matter much (unless the election is close?, I add). Or as this blogger has written in the past: count all the ballots emitted and even if Simon Bolivar is registered as an elector, his ballot will not appear. If all ballots are counted, who cares if there are more registered voters than people actually living in Venezuela? Of course, in the case of a close election if Chavez had the FARC registered to vote then some questions could be raised, but for simplicity at this time let’s focus on the fact that the only fast and effective solution is, AGAIN, to count all ballots, a solution simple but steadfastly refused by the CNE.

The main victim here is the “abstentionist” movement who is told that the main trickery of Chavez IS NOT the electoral registry, at least at presidential election level. We will see how this will play with that crowd.

But the real trickery of chavismo is elsewhere and we can find it in the excellent article of Perez Oramas in El Nacional of yesterday (subscription only but I have posted it in my document blog)

The reasons for CNE cheating? Perez Oramas to the rescue.

One could easily observe that the three independent universities rapport was after all not that damming for the CNE. The main accusation, for now, is that the sloppy work of the CNE has not allowed for the purging of the rolls from dead people, illegal voters, double registries, etc… This happens everywhere, just much more and more blatantly in Venezuela. So, if such corrections could easily be done, if nothing else graver will show up, why did the CNE refuse to accept the more efficient audit and instead settle for a system who had no credibility from the very start? That is where the Perez Oramas article comes in.

First, the article is about many things, one of them the most ringing endorsement of Teodoro Petkoff candidacy as I have yet to read. I have no problem with that as he is still my favorite even if I will go to the primaries vote for either Borges or Rosales. But that I have explained earlier, back on topic.

Perez Oramas reminds us of two things. The first one is that the predicament of Venezuela has its roots deep in an anti-political approach from its ruling classes and more so the people. Any word that contains “political” or is associated with generates a profound rejection by the hoi polloi. Apparently after 25 years of decline we think as a people that politicians are bad and that we do not need them to solve political problems. Something of course that has been used to his greatest advantage by Chavez who as a supreme politician still manages to have the masses believe that he is not a politician (and a politician of the worst kind he is!)

And thus Perez Oramas reminds us of the second thing, that all the opposition failed efforts against Chavez were due in large part as been an anti political effort, henceforth a quick fix effort doomed to failure. His advice is that Venezuela is in dire need of real politicians (and Teodoro is one, of course).

However, once one gets over this pro Teodoro and anti Sumate stance, Perez Oramas takes us into what gives stunning value to his article and opens our eyes, if still closed, as to why the CNE acts as he acts. I will translate one paragraph:
Venezuela needs politicians. Do we need magnifying glasses to understand that the opposition country, which has suffered the largest sum of frustrations and failures, is not willing to repeat, and justifiably so, the tragicomedy of signatures and voting on its own? Have not [they] realized that the vote is today, in Venezuela, an additional mechanism by the government, as it is for everything else, for its exclusive benefit? That there is thus a structural crisis of our democratic system, that the social contract that brings a society to believe in voting is broken? That the demolishing logic of chavismo has gained its biggest political success by infecting the entire nation with doubt as to the purpose of the voting act, precisely by using it, abusing of it, lowering it to the abject function of being a simple legitimating instrument, abusing of its majority and gutting it of its meaning and of its function as a mechanism or representation and alternativeness?
Strong words and a devastating observation. Of course, there is no need for the CNE to cheat outrageously (as the above cited report might show), it is enough for the CNE to project the image of cheating to scare opposition voters from the voting booths, making the voting act irrelevant.

But this is also a very quotable article by the arrow-like meaning of some comments such as these ones:
There is no doubt in me that democracy is our only destiny. But there is no doubt that those who rule Venezuela do not participate in democracy, they only use it.

The only acceptable alternative today is for evidence of something opposed to Chavez. Venezuela requires, to reconstruct the possibility of voting and democracy, to rebuild the capacity of dialogue, to effect again the will and efficiency of the negotiating table.

The anti-politic, and in this Sumate and Chavez agree, advocate for primaries fraught with risks and lacking of any sociological credibility.
Thus we know why the CNE stalls at anything that might restore the sense of voting: its objective is to convince only those who support the regime to go and vote in pre-ordained plebiscites. Does anyone doubt that? Does anyone think that primaries and wishful thinking are enough to change that?

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1) Least people think that “agreed” is a vague term for undocumented justification, I would like to quickly point out that it is not the principal victim of this trickery, the Venezuelan opposition, which is alone bitterly complaining. Almost any serious electoral observer, including the Carter Center, the OAS and the EU has voiced concerns about the nature of the Venezuelan electoral rolls. As far as I know only chavismo and Fidel Castro think that Venezuela is a democratic model. References are numerous through this blog.

2) The roster of these “invited” universities include the infamously famous Universidad Bolivariana, who has yet to have its program approved, who has yet to graduate its first class, who has yet to explain its research and teaching organization, who has had three rectors in as many years, one of them thrown out for alleged misdeeds (without any trial or anything) and more. The UB IS UNABLE to perform a serious evaluation of the electoral registry and even less an objective one.

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