Po­lit­i­cal fate of Venezuela hangs on vote

Op­po­si­tion urges boy­cott of poll

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - TELESUR CARA­CAS

VOT­ERS yes­ter­day cast their bal­lots in Venezuela’s Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly elec­tions. Polling sta­tions opened at 6am fol­low­ing a bu­gle wake-up call and fire­works.

Al­most 20 mil­lion Venezue­lans are reg­is­tered to vote for 545 mem­bers of the Assem­bly.

The pres­i­dent of the coun­try’s Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil, Tibisay Lucena, said the elec­toral sys­tem is “one of the safest, most re­li­able and trans­par­ent in the world”.

The process is fin­ger­print-based and au­to­mated.

Lucena said the elec­tion was be­ing au­dited by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional en­ti­ties, and that her or­gan­i­sa­tion would en­sure and pro­tect the Venezue­lan peo­ple’s right to vote, de­spite re­cent threats by the op­po­si­tion to dis­rupt the pro­ceed­ings.

Peo­ple can cast their bal­lots at any polling cen­tre in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity where they are reg­is­tered.

On Sat­ur­day, Venezuela Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro stressed the im­por­tance of the vote.

Maduro said: “This is the most im­por­tant elec­tion in the Venezue­lan po­lit­i­cal sys­tem be­cause we are elect­ing the sov­er­eign con­stituent body, the body that is above all oth­ers, the max­i­mum po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity.”

He also re­it­er­ated his of­fer of peace talks with the op­po­si­tion.

But some of the gov­ern­ment’s op­po­nents have urged a boy­cott of the elec­tions. Two of their lead­ers, Leopoldo Lopez and Hen­rique Capriles, were call­ing for a march against the vote in the cap­i­tal Cara­cas on polling day.

The vote is be­ing held amid what po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts have de­scribed as hos­tile West­ern me­dia cover­age.

For ex­am­ple, Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio (NPR) in the US, which calls it­self an in­de­pen­dent voice and is gen­er­ally deemed sober and left of cen­tre, has of­ten ap­peared to sup­port Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion at times, – de­spite the facts.

When the op­po­si­tion de­cided to hold its own July 16 ref­er­en­dum/ con­sul­ta­tion on the pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional change, NPR re­ported: “Venezue­lans over­whelm­ingly re­ject con­sti­tu­tional change.” The sta­tion stated that 98% voted to re­ject the es­tab­lish­ment of a Na­tional Con­stituent Assem­bly. And more than 7 mil­lion voted – in­clud­ing 700 000 ex­pa­tri­ates – com­pris­ing a third of the elec­torate.

How­ever, the ra­dio sta­tion failed to men­tion that gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers did not join this ex­er­cise, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Ar­shad Khan.

In ad­di­tion, although far short of the 14 mil­lion the op­po­si­tion had said would par­tic­i­pate, the NPR piece re­peated the op­po­si­tion claim that they had tal­lied 7 186 160 votes.

How­ever, the 7 mil­lion fig­ure ap­pears un­re­li­able. On the ba­sis of op­po­si­tion fig­ures, which counted 2 000 polling sta­tions and 14 000 vot­ing booths, this would mean that one per­son a minute voted in every sin­gle vot­ing booth over the 9-hour vot­ing pe­riod which is hardly – be­liev­able.

The NPR also failed to re­port ev­i­dence in­clud­ing a video prov­ing mul­ti­ple vot­ing and the un­usual step taken by the op­po­si­tion to burn all bal­lots af­ter count­ing pur­port­edly – to pro­tect the vot­ers which cast – doubt on the cred­i­bil­ity of the process and the ve­rac­ity of the al­leged re­sult.

An­a­lysts have fur­ther asked why the op­po­si­tion didn’t just wait un­til the of­fi­cial poll yes­ter­day in­stead of hold­ing a poorly su­per­vised af­fair with ques­tion­able re­sults.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Peo­ple queue to cast their votes at a polling sta­tion dur­ing the Con­stituent Assem­bly elec­tion in Cara­cas, Venezuela, yes­ter­day.

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