Venezuela, elections, and implications for democracy
Daniel Duquenal of Venezuela News and Views, who has come up with a brilliant logo Venezuela ahora es del 15%, was interviewed by the Beeb. Listen to the whole interview (it starts 2:30 mins into the podcast). By now even the BBC’s saying “a hundred and sixty-seven seats, all won, is a sort of victory that dictators normally get”. Daniel’s blog also links to the PRELIMINARY OAS OBSERVATIONS ON THE LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS IN VENEZUELA, which points out
Electoral participation is what contributes to the strengthening of democracy and the legitimacy of representative institutions. It is up to the electoral authorities to generate the necessary conditions for the full participation of all sectors. Although the right not to participate is recognized, it is of concern that due to the withdrawal of the opposition, an important portion of the citizenry is left without representation in the National Assembly. Every democracy requires an institutional opposition committed to the electoral process, so that it can loyally participate in the democratic system.
During the election campaign, the Mission observed proselytizing activities on the part of high-level public officials, at the national as well as the state and municipal levesl, and an absence of strict mechanisms to control the use of public and private resources for political and electoral ends.
but Reuters spins the results.
Update: The Economist looks at Chávez’s clean sweep
Although Mr Chávez is successful at the polls, he has ridden roughshod over the usual checks and balances that make a democracy. He has used the levers of state power even more enthusiastically than his predecessors. The army is loyal directly to the president. The judiciary, including the supreme court, is packed with his supporters. A 2004 law increased regulation of the media and threatens journalists with jail terms for “illegal” conduct (though it has not been widely used). Now, with a two-thirds majority in the assembly, Mr Chávez can change the constitution at will. This will probably result in yet more state entanglement in the economy, and fewer limits on the presidency. Mr Chávez is almost sure to cruise to re-election in December 2006.
Mr. Chávez’s party or parties sympathetic to his Bolivarian revolution won all 167 seats in the country’s unicameral congress. Every single seat. But that Saddam-like sweep was only possible because most Venezuelans decided not to participate. Even the government admits to an abstention rate of greater than 75%. While it’s true the opposition boycotted, it did so knowing how the government had cheated to win the August 2004 recall referendum.
The Chávez transgressions in 2004 included the use of voting machines in which software was not reviewed, refusal to allow auditing of the voting registry, not guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote, and using the list of Venezuelans who had signed the recall petition to threaten the livelihoods of government employees and contractors. Overseeing it all was a government-appointed electoral council, which did what it could to outlaw competition. European Union was so appalled that it refused even to monitor the 2004 vote.
Of course Jimmy Carter thought everything was fine, and left town early to attend Rosalynn’s birthday party.
Consider all the following sources of impediment to a claim of democratically ratified legitimacy:
1. The electorate must be aware that it possesses a choice, and must believe that its choice is “real;” that is, that their casting of ballots can make a practical difference in what follows.
2. The choice itself must be among men who are not one another’s allies, whether overtly or secretly, in the acquisition of power.
3. Each citizen’s choice must be uncoerced; there must be no penalty for whatever he decides to do, including abstention from voting, and he must be convinced that this is so.
4. The tallies must themselves be honest; any discrepancies between the objective results and the reported results must arise from error rather than manipulation.
5. Most critical, the men who are elevated to power by the election must not themselves be frauds
You have to read the rest.
Meanwhile, here in NJ
Corzine won most costly race with lowest voter turnout
DynamoBuzz has a suggestion.