Political fate of Venezuela hangs on vote
Opposition urges boycott of poll
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.
People queue to cast their votes at a polling station during the Constituent Assembly election in Caracas, Venezuela, yesterday.