The Carter Center: "National Electoral Council affected by partisanship"
The Carter Center suggested, "eliminating or making completely voluntary the voter information system"
Jennifer McCoy said the use of state resources "is perhaps the most important incumbency advantage of government officials" (Photo: Vicente Correale)
EUGENIO G. MARTÍNEZ | EL UNIVERSAL
Friday November 16, 2012 12:10 PM
On the occasion of Venezuela's 2012 elections, The Carter Center recommended enacting additional campaign regulations to combat election campaign imbalances and eliminating or making completely voluntary the voter information system (SIE).
In the executive summary of The Carter Center Study Mission for 2012 Venezuelan Electoral Process, the organization also suggested prohibiting "last minute changes in the ballots," with respect to candidates' support by political parties.
The 2012 presidential contest, The Carter Center remarked, reflected and reaffirmed "the intense political contestation and social polarization Venezuelans have grown accustomed to since (Hugo) Chávez was first elected to the presidency in December 1998. Fortunately, tensions did not boil over and voting took place peacefully," during the presidential election held last October 7.
Yet, the executive summary highlights, as well as all Venezuelan institutions, "the CNE (Venezuela's National Electoral Council) is deeply affected by partisanship. Although theoretically nominated for their professional expertise (...) they have been perceived by many Venezuelans to reflect strong partisan affinities. Of its five current rectors, four, including the president, are linked to the Chávez government with varying degrees of sympathy and one is linked to the opposition. This partisan politicization helps explain the tepidness with which the CNE has addressed some issues, especially campaign regulations, and the inconsistency of its enforcement actions."
Regarding the voting system, The Carter Center outlines that although all political actors audited and were pleased at the results of the system, they have been strong critics of it and its impact on the turnout of voters.
According to The Carter Center, "Although high voter turnout contributed to long lines, a new system to inform voters about where to vote and provide information on the flow of voting to the CNE was in part responsible for widespread bottlenecks at the entrance of the polling centers. The new system, called Sistema de Informacion al Elector (SIE, Electoral System Information), consisted of laptops where voters checked for their voting tables and location in the voter's list notebooks. This problem ran counter to the overall efficiency of the vote itself, which took very little time, and the benefits relative to the costs in time to the voter were not clear."
However, critiques against the SIE, developed by Smartmatic, are not extensive. The report also pointed out the increase in voter's confidence on the automated system unlike prior elections, and suggested keeping working on it.
Referring to the presence of opposition party witnesses, although the Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) had witnesses inside the CNE's vote count room, "at the last minute it was not permitted to have them inside two other operational centers that monitored voter turnout and problems with the voter and fingerprint machines. Although operations performed at these centers did not affect the normal development of the electoral process, the lack of access on the part of opposition representatives ran counter to the basic principle of transparency, according to which there should not be sensitive areas of the electoral process outside the reach of party monitoring."
State resources and campaign imbalances
The Carter Center Director Jennifer McCoy says that the use of state resources "is perhaps the most important incumbency advantage and most difficult to assess, particularly if campaign revenue and expenditure disclosures are not made public, as is the case in Venezuela. Ventajismo, or unfair advantage in favor of the incumbent, became a theme in the 2012 campaign."
The Carter Center stated, "National government expenditures were estimated to increase by 45 percent in 2012 over 2011." With respect to the media, the NGO underscored the scenario "has changed dramatically over the last decade, from a clear predominance of privately-owned television, radio, and print news outlets (mostly in the political opposition to the Chávez government) to the growth of state-owned media outlets, including five television channels and several major radio stations that promote the government's program and ideology."
Translated by Jhean Cabrera