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Venezuela's signature repair process: "To go or not to go, that is the question"

By Miguel Octavio

As the opposition ponders whether to go or not to the process of ratifying the signatures to request Chavez recall it is interesting to review what part of the rules for the process will make it difficult to reach the goal of 2.35 million valid signatures.

First of all, in the end there was no agreement between the CNE and the Coordinadora Democrática (CD). The Coordinadora negotiated some points, but it was never able to get all of those points considered indispensable from the CNE. The CD did make it clear that some proposals, like that of the fingerprints or the possibility of appealing the results after the close of the polls were simply not negotiable. If they were approved the Coordinadora would simply not participate in the process.

Similarly, the CNE refused to negotiate some points, such as the close to 400,000 signatures which were declared invalid due to a number of technicalities, mostly dealing with the cover sheet (“Acta”) and not with the signatures themselves.

The Coordinadora did manage to convince the CNE on the following points:

-The CNE in the end decided to accept the concept of sudden death, by which the results of the process will be announced and there will be no appeal to the CNE. Each day, the CD will receive copies of all of the notebooks with the results for the day. Once the results are added for the last day, that’s it. Of course, this does not say anything about what happens if there is a numerical difference between what is announced by the CNE and what is in the notebooks.

-Initially, the CNE wanted to have a single PC at each center independent of the number of signatures. The CD had calculated that this would create a severe limitation to the total number of people that could ratify their signatures. In the end, some centers will not even have PC’s.

-Initially, the CNE wanted to have the result of the PC’s to be the final one. Given the potential for tricks, the CD refused to accept it and in the end it will be the total from the notebooks that will be the binding result.

-There will be no fingerprint checking as proposed by the legal counsel of the CNE in the first draft of the regulations.

The CD lost on a number of points:

-It wanted to have centers adjacent to those of the CNE to assist people. The idea was that the CD would tell people the status of their signature here. This would help speed up the flow by keeping people whose signatures were either valid or invalid from clogging up the lines at the CNE polling booths. The CNE did not agree to these, but may still allow them.

-The CD wanted to have the CNE polling centers stay open as long as there were people in line. The CNE approved that this would happen only on the last day. (I see no rationale for this)

-The CD wanted to have partial results made public every single day, this was not approved. (Once again, this has no rationale)

-Perhaps the most amazing twist of logic is that the regulations state that there will be five days for the ratification process, but the CNE got away with reducing them to three by saying that the first and last day for setting up and dismantling the centers. These should not count as part of the process and it represents the most incredible interpretation of the original regulations.

In the end, what this shows, at least to me, is that the only questionable aspect is that the three days may not be enough for everyone that wants to ratify their signature, given the nature of the process, the use of the PC’s and the fact that thousands of Chavistas may go to the booths simply to create lines. Given that the opposition needs as many as possible to ratify their signatures, this in the end may be its demise. Once again a subtle trick could make the whole difference.

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