Sumate: the guardian of Venezuela's democracy
By Aleksander Boyd
London 20 Oct. 04 - This day broke with good news; in spite of being the subject of a very well orquestrated campaign of State prosecution, Sumate -and its 45.000 volunteers- will continue guarding our democracy. That is why the NGO has become such a nuissance for neo fascist Chavez and that is why he will have no qualms in incarcerating its directors come 'deliberation' time. However as the white paper produced by them concludes "Venezuela will continue to be a democracy because that is the will of its people, Súmate will not cease in its struggle to confront any force that seeks to deny Venezuelans their hard earned right to be counted among the free citizens of the world."
With such firmness of convictions one must not entertain any doubts as to the impossibility of success of Chavez' seudo revolution. I will leave readers with a few excerpts of the said paper vis-a-vis the coming regional elections.
Almost immediately after the official result of the RRP was announced and in the mist of growing evidence of improprieties, the CNE, acquiescing to the will of President Chavez, announced the actual date for the previously postponed election of regional authorities (State Governors, mayors and other municipal authorities). In light of the shortcomings of the RRP process described above, it might be useful to look critically at this new electoral event.
1. Voter Registration
Uncertainty on the validity and rigor of the Electoral Registry persists.
• Contrary to law3, it was opened after the RRP and closed on September 8th, purportedly to give electors the chance to update information or to register.
• To date, the updated Registry has not been distributed by CNE to the interested parties as is required by law.
• There will be no time for a comprehensive independent audit of the Electoral and Civil Registers.
• The non-validation of the Registers is a restriction of the political freedom of the electors since there will be no confirmation of the validity of the two registers.
2. Integrity of the Electoral Process
First, the CNE is ignoring the Venezuelan election laws governing the regional elections in favor of improvising norms, rules and regulations arbitrarily, as it did in the RRP. The election schedule, periods and dates for the Regional Elections announced by the CNE are patently illegal.4 If the CNE insists on the date of October 31st, for the Regional Elections there will be, once again, all of the defects and illegalities that were present in the RRP. There is simply not enough time to correct them all.
Second, the CNE has not announced nor evidenced changes in its biased conduct nor in its haphazard electoral process, so any future election appears likely to be as murky, and end up as challenged, as the RRP.
Third, The defective design of the voting process that extends into very late at night (indeed, into the early morning hours) the closing time of the voting centers increases the risk of personal attacks, which is also a limitation of the political right to vote without fear.
Fourth, the CNE has not implemented any norm or standard nor has even expressed its intent to include citizen participation in all the electoral processes before, during and after voting day. The CNE has not invited international observers for the regional elections, nor have any standards for observation been declared that would allow observation of the elections or full audits in the central facilities of the CNE should such observation be granted.
Fifth, there has been no plan announced by the CNE to implement local control of the electoral process, which is required by law; but rather to process the official count and audits in the central facilities of the CNE in secret. In particular, there has been no plan announced by the CNE to count or certify ballots that differs from the counting process in the recall referendum, which was wide open to the possibility of fraud.
V. CONSEQUENCES FOR DEMOCRACY
If the Premises and their Principles are not upheld, the consequences are ominous for the nation:
• The elections will not have integrity.
• Citizen cynicism will rise, and voter participation will fall.
• The belief in democracy as a means for self-government will diminish.
• The elected officials will not be truly legitimate.
• The government will proceed unilaterally without the true consent of the governed.
• Autocracy will progressively replace democracy.
VI. SÚMATE’S ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Súmate is dedicated to the preservation of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and practices. In order to do this, we seek to promote and protect voting rights.
Súmate has every intention to honor the trust millions of citizens have deposited in us as “watchdogs” for their rights as voters.
Súmate is committed to the ongoing search for truth concerning the RRP.
Súmate is working to ensure a transparent electoral process in future elections. Súmate will continue to interact with diverse actors in the international arena that share our concern for the state of democracy in Venezuela. From shared experience, we will not only learn to do our job better, but we will develop even more effective mechanisms to monitor and counteract threats to our rights and to our way of life.
With all the above in mind, Súmate wishes to conclude this brief by stating three concrete activities it is currently undertaking that should enhance our rights, as citizens, to exercise control over our own destiny:
• An investigation and discussion of the best practices and standards for:
- voter registration;
- electronic voting;
- citizen monitoring and observation of the public powers;
- international observation.
• An audit process that is already in place to execute the evaluation of the validity of the new Electoral Register as soon as it is distributed by the CNE
• Workshops for its volunteers and other interested citizens so that they may deepen their understanding of the 1999 constitution, the concept of citizen participation, and the electoral systems.
Venezuela will continue to be a democracy because that is the will of its people, Súmate will not cease in its struggle to confront any force that seeks to deny Venezuelans their hard earned right to be counted among the free citizens of the world.
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