World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Venezuelan Elections Need not Be Chávez Coronation

Council On Hemispheric Affairs
Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Press Releases, Venezuela, Front Page

The Upcoming Venezuelan Elections Need not Be a Coronation for Chávez

With a political climate still marred by the recollections of bitter past confrontations, such as the failed opposition-led coup in April 2002, the ensuing general strike, and bitter, partisan divisions between the ruling party and the opposition, all may not be lost at next Sunday’s presidential contest. While President Chávez, perhaps prophetically, acts as if a coronation awaits him, the modus operandi of the opposition, led by Manuel Rosales, viciously discredits Chávez by using a mélange of invented tales, gross distortions, painful exaggerations, and outright lies, rather than try to deal with Venezuela’s complex realities. Furthermore Chávez’s presidential opponent Rosales, routinely accuses the country’s strongman of seeking to erect a dictatorship. Meanwhile, the government alleges coup plots and near-traitorous behavior by the opposition.

Notwithstanding such a hostile atmosphere, the procedural technicalities involved in preparing for the December ballot, although caviled over, seem to be facilitating a free and fair election. Pedro Nikken, the director of Ojo Electoral – one of the most widely respected electoral monitoring bodies in Venezuela – recently told a Washington audience that up to this point, whatever imperfections had been observed were not significant enough to invalidate the December 3 contest. According to Nikken, the electoral registration list “is not great, but neither unacceptable to accommodate free and fair elections.”

In a climate of repeated allegations of wrongdoing and conspiracy, few opportunities to ululate have been passed up by either side. Venezuelan electoral legislation stipulates that voting is to be conducted electronically. This has caused considerable concern within the opposition’s marrow, although electronic voting machines have not proven to be a serious problem in previous ballots. As a safeguard, the National Electoral Council (CNE) recently authorized election officials to fingerprint voters. This was to be done even though this process would prompt apprehension over privacy issues. Intended to avert duplicate voting, fingerprint registration also raised questions over its reliability. This brought about an audit by Ojo Electoral, which reaffirmed the machines’ dependability, stressing that the process poses no major risk of a breach of confidentiality.

Even if the government’s intent would prove malignant, the presence of hundreds of foreign and domestic observers throughout the nation – at almost every polling station – should prevent any blatant irregularities. On November 15, the CNE approved observation teams from the EU, with delegations also coming from the OAS and the Carter Center.

While insuring that the basic conditions for a fair electoral outcome are in place, a number of potentially disruptive issues must be resolved in order to improve the country’s fundamental political tone. The infuriating reluctance of both sides to acknowledge the respective legitimacy of the other clearly impedes any meaningful debate and by default, creates an aura of fraud surrounding what should be the quintessential moment for a fully-fledged, functioning democracy. Nor do the anti-Chávez cheap-shots from a Bush administration, whose Latin American policy can only be compared to Iraq in its irrelevance and the absence of even a semblance of professionalism, help very much.
The deportment of the losing side in the wake of the election will prove crucial to the ongoing vitality of Venezuelan democracy. To advocate a durable democracy – not just one that glitters on Election Day – the defeated candidate, who in this case will almost certainly be Rosales, must continue to participate fully in the country’s political life. This would mean dismissing all thought of dropping out of the political process or sulking over some shortcoming, real or apparent, in protest against one government policy or another. Therefore, it is imperative that both Chávez and Rosales prepare for any outcome, and not cheat their fellow Venezuelans out of their citizenship rights.

Each side should be allowed to provide vocal, constitutionally-steeped challenges after the December ballot has been counted. This would be in contrast to the experiences endured in the days leading up to the 2005 National Assembly elections, when the four major opposition parties took the capricious action of bailing out from the elections altogether, citing the illegitimacy of the CNE or some other pretext, instead of engaging in constructive dialogue.

After the votes have been counted and the election certified by the monitors, the defeated candidate should be prepared to concede his loss and acknowledge the legitimacy of the result. This scenario would signal that a giant step toward a fully participatory society, resting soundly on a constitutional basis, has been taken. This will prove to be a rare virtue in an era of crude politics, but one projecting a hopeful sign for the country’s future.


This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and Research Associate Joen Kellberg
November 29th, 2006
Word Count: 800

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Covid: 250 Groups Urge WTO Chief To Ditch Pharma-Friendly Approach And Embrace Vaccine Patent Waiver

by Jake Johnson, staff writer An international coalition of 250 civil society groups on Tuesday urged the head of the World Trade Organization to embrace a temporary suspension of coronavirus vaccine-related patents, warning against pursuit of a voluntary ... More>>

Samoa’s Stunning Election Result: On The Verge Of A New Ruling Party For The First Time In 40 Years

Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni , University of Auckland and Patricia A. O'Brien , Georgetown University Samoan politics is on a knife edge. After the country voted in general elections on April 9, counting so far has resulted in a dead heat between the two ... More>>

Timor-Leste: UN Agencies Support Response In Wake Of Deadly Floods

United Nations agencies in Timor-Leste are supporting response efforts, as floods and landslides left widespread damage across the country, including in the capital, Dili. According to media reports, at least 21 people died in the country and many ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UN: Growing Calls For Revamping Development Financing To Ensure Sustainable Global Recovery From COVID-19 Pandemic

Forum to highlight new initiatives to tackle inequalities exacerbated by pandemic With many economies reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as inequalities continue to widen, world leaders will discuss options to unlock concrete investments ... More>>

How Can We Vaccinate The World? Five Challenges Facing The UN-Backed COVAX Programme

The aim of the UN-backed COVAX scheme is to get two billion vaccine doses into the arms of around a quarter of the population of poorer countries by the end of 2021. What are the main challenges that need to be overcome, if this historic global effort ... More>>

Department Of Global Communications: UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ Message For World Health Day 2021

5 APRIL 2021 As COVID-19 Reveals Immoral Inequities in Health System, Secretary-General Observance Message Calls for Applying Policies, Assigning Resources to Ensure Everyone Thrives Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World ... More>>