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The aftermath of parliament election

* Executive VP José Vicente Rangel on December 16th insisted that Hugo Chávez' government does not intend to ban political opposition parties that withdrew from December 4th parliament election and that they want to launch talks with domestic political players.

* "We are not banning parties; the National Electoral Council (CNE) is not outlawing parties, but there are regulations establishing that if they do not obtain a minimum percentage (of ballots), parties have to collect signatures (for registration with the electoral power), but no State body can issue a decision rendering parties illegal," Rangel said.
* He added that opposition parties in Venezuela are virtually fading out because of their own leaders. "Gaining four million ballots is a political capital for any opposition in the world, but opposition leaders irresponsibly wasted their political capital" during the violent events of April 11, 2003 and the general strike of December 2002-February 2003.

* NGO Súmate on December 16th requested the National Assembly (AN) to name a new board for the National Electoral Council as set forth in the Constitution.

* "We, Venezuelan nationals, strongly request the National Assembly to fulfill its duty and, in accordance with article 296 of the Constitution, name a new board comprised of three representatives of the civil society, a university delegate and a representative of the Citizens Power, with the consent and support of all Venezuelans," Súmate director Alejandro Plaz read out from a press release.

* According to the paper, distrust in CNE was the main reason for high abstention rates in the parliament polls last December 4th.

* "Voters stated clearly that they do not trust in CNE and are not willing to give in and cast their ballots. Four international observation missions and more than 80 percent of voters asked for a new CNE."

* Based on CNE numbers, abstention accounted for 74 percent.

* Vice-President José Vicente Rangel on December 12th accused the political parties that withdrew from December 4th congressional election of causing pecuniary losses to the Venezuelan State and found it necessary to establish "some sort of penalty" against them.

* "They (the political parties who refrained from taking part in the election) forced the State to incur in expenses, make investments, in balloting cards, etc. And then they withdrew. Who is going to face such damages?"
* Rangel reiterated that parties that refrained from participating in December 4th parliament poll "have to collect signatures again (for purposes of a new registration with the National Electoral Council) as they were removed from the political map."

* He added that following the polls, opposition in Venezuela became illegitimate and deprived of privileges. "This is a brutal defeat for any opposition in the world, and under these circumstances they will not be able to compete in December 2006 presidential election."

* Opposition Acción Democrática (AD) party labeled as a plan to "dismantle the remains of democratic institutions" a series of threats government officials have made that political organizations that withdrew from December 4th parliament election would be rendered illegal.

* AD representatives on December 12th appeared in the headquarters of the National Electoral Council to request the electoral body to take a stance on the legal status of their political organization, following their decision to withdraw from December 4th congressional election.

* AD secretary general Henry Ramos Allup, together with party president Jesús Méndez Quijada, insisted that there are no grounds to render opposition parties that refrained from running in the recent polls illegal.

* In reference to the steps needed to register again with CNE, he asked electoral authorities for the forms they are to use to collect signatures supporting AD, the number of signatures needed and the places where collection has to take place. He ensured they would gather the required number of signatures "in less than 72 hours."

* Luis Barragán, a leader of Social Christian party Copei, said the government is trying to create opinion unfavorable to opposition political groups by arguing that they rendered themselves illegitimate when they withdrew from December 4th congressional election and by suggesting that "we have to collect signatures to regain legal existence in the country."

* He ensured that political parties such as Copei "are fully present in the civil trenches of combat against this authoritarian regime." Barragán claimed Copei is actually planning to update their roll of members, "just the way we are used to."

* "It is no novelty for Copei the registration an updated census of members. Three years ago, we updated the list of our partisans for purposes of conducting a secret, direct and universal election of our current authorities."

* Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto said "people do not want more polls to elect representatives, people want (Hugo) Chávez and power for the people."

* "Make no mistake about this. Not only are we going to obtain 10 million votes, but 12 million votes, because people are going to turn out to cast their ballots on December 6th (during the presidential election where Chávez is running for re-election.)"

* Executive Vice-President José Vicente Rangel on December 12th dismissed remarks by some opposition leaders that the government is trying to ban the organizations opposed to President Hugo Chávez, and ensured that the Executive Branch has not such a legal capacity.

* "The National Executive does not have any constitutional or legal capacities to revoke permits to political parties. This is an exclusive competence of the National Electoral Council, whose decision under the rule of law can be challenged before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ,)" Rangel said in a press release.

* "You have to make a clear distinction between legal and political considerations," he said. "Legal regards competence, and politics refers to the opinions any citizen can express."

* Fortunately, he said, Venezuela is not facing a situation similar to that under the governments of opposition parties AD and Copei. According to Rangel, "back at that time, parties such as the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and the Revolutionary Leftist Movement (MIR) were arbitrarily banned, their leaders chased."

* He added that "Venezuela is living another time, and therefore some opposition leaders' impertinences are evidence of constant distortion and disinformation."

* Executive Vice President José Vicente Rangel dismissed that President Hugo Chávez is loosing support, following the Venezuelan ruler's statement that he may not gain the 10 million ballots he has repeatedly ensured he will obtain in December 2006 presidential election, where Chávez is running for re-election.

* "It is a merely logical forecast," Rangel asserted.

* "If we do not make it to 10 million votes, we are going to get close, just like when you take an examination and want to get an A but you get a B+," Chávez said late on December 12th.
* According to Rangel, Chávez remarks are "a stratagem of the President, to make reporters talk."

* Rangel added that a 75 percent abstention in December 4th parliament polls "does not cast any doubt" about the people support for Chávez. "In any election it is the people what counts. Abstention is a universal phenomenon," said the Venezuelan Vice-President.

* According to opposition AD deputy Henry Ramos Allup, there is no plurality in the new National Assembly (AN) due to different political parties, as argued by the government, "but absolute, total and unavoidable dependence upon the boss all of you. This is an one-person project called Hugo Chávez."

* He accused the government of trying to link the opposition with covert interests in order to lessen the impact of the withdrawal of political parties from the election for parliament.
He called ruling MVR party deputy Luis Tascón irresponsible for hinting that the dissent had received USD 5 million from the US embassy to withdraw from the polls.

* Ramos Allup argued that refraining from voting is as democratic as voting. He insisted on saying that the polls last December 4th did not allow for a reliable participation in the process. In addition to fingerprint-reading machines, "it was proved that the voting machine software had an impact on vote secrecy."

* Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos wants the Spanish government, political parties and parliament to help hold Venezuelan elections for president against a background of dialogue and political stability.

* During his intervention at the Congress Chamber of Deputies, concerning the elections for parliament last December 4th, Moratinos urged "to work for the purposes of transparency, and legal and electoral safeguards during the elections for president in Venezuela, and thus help Venezuelans to come to terms."

* For her part, socialist deputy María José Porteiro briefed on her work along with other policymakers to act as foreign observers during the polls. She particularly expressed concern for lack of dialogue and strained climate.

* "We are again very worried about the future of the Venezuelan people and ready to work towards a new situation where dialogue and political stability prevail," she stated.

* Opposition parties that withdrew from the parliament polls held last December 4th are out of CNE, National Assembly (AN) President Nicolás Maduro said.

* The congressman explained that if these parties wish to take part in new elections, they should collect signatures again and submit the appropriate documents to the Electoral Power.
* Such parties account for 1 percent of representation required under the Political Parties Law, the deputy told official news agency Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (ABN.)

* He regretted the opposition withdrawal from the AN, as it was a venue for negotiations.
"Today, we could have had 25 or 30 opposition deputies discussing the legislative agenda to start next January 5th, and this is important, as they represent a political and social sector," the parliamentarian explained.

* "Therefore, there is need to improve social dialogue with workers, peasants, indigenous people and the youth. During such discussions, we will try to open a window for opposition parties," he added.

* "I expect the Parliament to join efforts with the people and work efficiently on policymaking."

* Jorge Rodríguez, president of the National Electoral Council, on December 15th praised automated elections in Venezuela and ensured that over the last six years a constitutional mandate of holding unbiased and transparent polls has been complied.

* His comments came at the National Assembly, where he delivered the keynote speech at a ceremony commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Venezuelan constitution.
* "During these years the constitution has been in force, a mandate regarding political participation, electoral transparency and empowerment of the people through their ballots has been honored."

* In order to support such a statement, the official disclosed figures showing that from 1959 -the year when Venezuela held the first free election following a dictatorship- to 1998, 15 electoral events took place in the country to elect representatives and authorities. From April 1999 to last December 4th, 10 elections have been conducted, including referenda.

Audit and abstention
* CNE is to publish December 20th a report on the audit conducted in 47 percent of balloting centers following December 4th parliament polls.

* Carlos Silva, acting director of CNE IT Department, made the announcement during the post-election revision of 1 percent of voting machines used during the election of parliamentarians to the National Assembly, the Andean Parliament and the Latin American Parliament.

* On December 11th, 88 CNE officials, together with witnesses for five parties (four formerly pro-government parties and opposition Primero Justicia party), witness for electoral observation group Ojo Electoral and supervisors from the Central University of Venezuela matched paper ballots with ballot records printed out by voting machines.

* "This audit, the last one the CNE has scheduled for this election, was intended to compare data from voting logs on the number of people who cast their ballots and the total figures shown in automated machines ballot records," Silva explained.

* During December 4th election of deputies to the National Assembly, the Andean Parliament and the Latin American Parliament, 10,809,810 people -or 74.71 percent of registered voters- refrained from voting.

* CNE disclosed such figures in a preliminary report following count of 99.36 percent of ballot records.

* In percentage terms, abstention in December 4th election did not exceed a historic record marked in a trade union-related referendum held on December 3rd, 2003, when 76.2 percent of 11,784,831 registered voters did not participate in the election. In absolute terms, such a percentage amounts to 8,569,691 people.

* The abstention rate in the recent poll does not exceed either the figures recorded in municipal polls in 2000, when 8,968,352 people (76.2 percent of registered voters) decided not to cast their ballots.

* In the regions, the highest abstention rate was in southern Bolívar state (80.47 percent) and north central Miranda state (80.38 percent). The highest turnout was seen in Delta Amacuro state (58.91 percent), Cojedes state (62.51 percent) and Amazonas state (64.1 percent).

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