Elec­tion com­pany says ma­nip­u­la­tion in Venezuela vote turnout

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

The num­ber of Venezue­lans who par­tic­i­pated in the elec­tion for an all-pow­er­ful con­stituent assem­bly was in­flated by at least 1 mil­lion votes in an of­fi­cial count, the head of a vot­ing tech­nol­ogy com­pany as­serted Wed­nes­day, a find­ing cer­tain to sow fur­ther dis­cord over the con­tro­ver­sial su­per-body that has gen­er­ated months of na­tion­wide protests.

Smart­matic CEO An­to­nio Mug­ica said re­sults recorded by his sys­tems and those re­ported by Venezuela’s Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil in­di­cate “with­out any doubt’’ that of­fi­cial turnout fig­ure of more than 8 mil­lion par­tic­i­pants was ma­nip­u­lated.

The in­ter­na­tional soft­ware com­pany has been pro­vid­ing elec­tronic ma­chines in Venezuela since 2004.

“Even in mo­ments of deep po­lit­i­cal con­flict and di­vi­sion we have been sat­is­fied with the vot­ing process and the count has been com­pletely ac­cu­rate,’’ Mug­ica told re­porters in Lon­don. “It is, there­fore, with the deep­est re­gret that we have to re­port that the turnout fig­ures on Sun­day, 30 July, for the Con­stituent Assem­bly in Venezuela were tam­pered with.’’

The assem­bly will be granted vast pow­ers to re­write the na­tion’s con­sti­tu­tion and over­ride every branch of the gov­ern­ment. Op­po­si­tion mem­bers boy­cotted the elec­tion, claim­ing the terms to select del­e­gates were heav­ily rigged to favour the rul­ing party. Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro has vowed to use the assem­bly to tar­get his en­e­mies and so­lid­ify Venezuela as a so­cial­ist state.

An in­de­pen­dent exit poll con­cluded turnout was less than half that re­ported by the elec­tion com­mis­sion. Op­po­si­tion lead­ers who sta­tioned ob­servers in every mu­nic­i­pal­ity also ques­tioned the count.

Julio Borges, the pres­i­dent of the op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Na­tional Assem­bly, said law­mak­ers will ask the na­tion’s chief pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate com­mis­sion mem­bers for po­ten­tial crimes.

“They want to give to­tal power to an assem­bly who peo­ple with more than 10 years man­ag­ing the elec­toral process in Venezuela say with all cer­tainty, ir­re­versibly, with hard data from their own servers, that the an­nounced re­sult was crooked,’’ Borges said.

The assem­bly is ex­pected to be sworn into of­fice Thursday. Op­po­si­tion lead­ers are call­ing on Venezue­lans to gather in Caracas for a mass protest.

On Mon­day, two prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion lead­ers were dragged from their homes by heav­ily armed se­cu­rity agents and thrown in a mil­i­tary prison Tues­day, draw­ing con­dem­na­tion from the United States and some Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. But many other na­tions and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions were silent or lim­ited them­selves to ex­pres­sions of con­cern.

Op­po­si­tion leader Leopoldo Lopez and An­to­nio Ledezma were ac­cused by the gov­ern­ment-al­lied Supreme Court of vi­o­lat­ing the terms of their house ar­rest by plot­ting to es­cape and re­leas­ing video state-

AP PHOTO

Anti-gov­ern­ment law­mak­ers shout “Fraud,” dur­ing a ses­sion of Venezuela’s Na­tional Assem­bly, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wed­nes­day.

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