CARACAS, Wednesday March 15, 2006 | Update
| The European Union branded withdrawal of opposition candidates as "surprising"
EU recommends new voters' census

EU electoral observation mission proposes Venezuela to clarify electoral rules, conduct ampler audits, suspend the use of fingerprint-reading machines, and regulate pro-government electoral campaigning

The European Union Wednesday is formally delivering its final report on last December 4th parliament polls (Photo: Gil Montaño/El Universal)
Wednesday March 15, 2006  11:34 AM


In its final report on last December 4th parliament election in Venezuela, the European Union Electoral Observation Mission suggested to create a new "passive" electoral register based on the civil register exclusively, in order to dispel doubts about the Venezuelan voters' census.

The report, delivered to the board of directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) on Monday, hailed the reliability of the automated electoral system -though it did criticized some aspects of the system-, the confidence in results, the technical performance of CNE and its willingness to solve complex problems.

The EU mission, however, requested clarification of the electoral legal framework, enlargement of the scope of electoral audits, moves to prevent pro-government campaigning from violating the laws, and discontinuation of fingerprint capture machines.

The report stressed that CNE has made "significant efforts" to add new features to the Standing Electoral Register that are not set forth under the organic law on suffrage and political participation (Lospp,) such as fingerprint-reading machines.

The document added that the introduction of fingerprints with a view to improve the quality of the voters' register "may not entirely solve some structural problems such as the way the Electoral Register is compiled and the dependence of the Electoral Register on the database of the National and Foreigners' Identification Office (Onidex.)"

"In the longer term, it could be preferable to invest in a project for safe, reliable, modern civil identity cards to solve identification problems of citizens registering with the Electoral Register," said the report.

Unless identity cards are issued under reliable standards, "any efforts related to identification, through biometrics controls at the registration and balloting centers, could be seen as suspicious, disproportionate moves."

Therefore, the European Union suggested electoral authorities to consider "migration to a fully digitalized civil register and a passive electoral register." Under this mechanism, any citizen turning 18 -the legal age for voting in Venezuela- would automatically be included in the voters' register.

This proposal is similar to a plan CNE president Jorge Rodríguez and CNE Civil and Electoral Register Committee president Oscar Battaglini presented some months ago.

In order to avoid misuse of such mechanism, EU experts suggested adoption of "adequate legal regulations for data protection."

Despite their similar proposals, CNE experts questioned the need for CNE to have total control over such a sensitive database, in the event that their proposed civil register is adopted.

The major stumbling block with the electoral register is the impossibility to match it with the civil register, as the latter is not digitalized, the European Union said.

The EU took note with surprise of the withdrawal of the majority of the opposition parties from December 4th parliament election, especially because CNE accepted the opposition demand not to use fingerprint capture machines during the electoral event.

High abstention was the result of some opposition sectors calling people to refrain from casting their ballots and of the disclosure of a computerized list of citizens indicating their political preference in the signature recollection process for the presidential recall referendum (known as  "Maisanta Program" and "Tascón List").

Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.

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