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Caracas, Monday September 20 , 2004  
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Command not consent


MICHAEL ROWAN
SPECIAL TO EL UNIVERSAL

If the CNE were to rewrite the most famous declaration for democracy, it might go like this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that some are more equal than others, and that to secure this inequality, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the command of the government." This rewrite would remove all reasonable doubt from what happened in the RR: One, the CNE did not count the paper ballots as it was bound to do. Two, it did not audit a true random sample of the votes in the presence of opponents and observers as it was required to do. Three, it did not disclose the vote computation system to the observers so in actuality they could not observe the election. Regardless of the outcome, the CNE destroyed its institutional legitimacy right there. It didn't count the ballots. It didn't do its job. The whole thing was a charade, but here's the astonishing thing: it worked!

"We will never know the results of the Recall Referendum," Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center said at an Inter-American Dialogue meeting in Washington last September 7th. She described the CNE as dysfunctional, flawed and untrustworthy, but the Carter Center is endorsing the CNE results anyway because "There's no way to prove the Yes vote got 50%," she said. This is an interesting piece of logic: we don't know what the vote was, because we weren't allowed to see it, so we're certifying the CNE result, because no one can prove that it is not true. So why not let the No have 99% of the vote, like Castro got in his last election?

There's a joke going around the internet that has an aide come to the dictator Juan Vicente Gomez with a bright idea. "Let's have an election," he says. "Who would win such an election?" Gomez wonders. "Why, you would, of course." Gomez thinks and says, "So why have it?" Why have it, indeed. The idea of the RR was to find a "constitutional, democratic, electoral solution to Venezuela's crisis of polarization" - this was said 1,000 times if it was said once. The RR was not a democratic election. The CNE is not an election commission. It was not the "consent of the governed" but the "command of the government" that was being measured by the RR. Democracy is a zombie in Venezuela: dead, buried, but still walking around, dazed.

mrowan@cantv.net

Michael Rowan's column is published every Tuesday



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