FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Investing in Democracy in Venezuela

by SUSAN SCOTT and AZADEH SHAHSHAHANI

As part of an eight-member delegation from the National Lawyers Guild, we spent the week leading up to the October 7 Venezuelan presidential election in Caracas, learning about the electoral system that Jimmy Carter has called “the best in the world.”  On the day of the election, we observed it in action all over the country as part of a group of more than 220 international parliamentarians, election officials, academics, journalists, and judges.  As predicted by the vast majority of polling organizations, Hugo Chavez was re-elected by a double digit margin (55.11% to 44.27%) with an unprecedented turnout of 80.9%.

Free and fair elections are only one feature of a democracy, but in Venezuela, elections have become something more—a national project which knows no party and constitutes a major investment.

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.

We were present at the CNE headquarters in Caracas for the announcement of the election results within a few hours of the closing of the more than 38,000 polling stations throughout the country.  And we watched as Capriles conceded on television with the next hour.

What struck us most was the national commitment to democracy as showcased by the very level of financial and popular investment in the entire system.  Aside from the cost for the technology transfer from the Venezuelan company that designed the machines (Smartmatic), there is the cost of producing, maintaining, repairing, packing, and transporting the 46,000 machines, each with its separate electronic ballot and fingerprint authentication machines, as well as the significant investment in training field operators for polling stations all over the country.  The CNE employs over 400,000 people to do the work that relates directly to the electoral process.   We can only begin to imagine all the other jobs that result from this complex national process to ensure a fully transparent democratic system.

Susan Scott is the National Lawyers Guild International Committee Co-Chair. 

Azadeh Shahshahani is President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild.

 

Clearance Sale of Vintage
CounterPunch T-Shirts!

We’ve marked down some of CounterPunch’s most popular t-shirts to only $8.00,including the CP shirt featuring Alexander Cockburn’s own scrawl.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail