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Elections in Iraq & Venezuela

Michael Rowan | El Universal

08.02.05 | The election in Iraq was on all counts more transparent than the 2004 Recall Referendum in Venezuela. Here's a straightforward comparison.

In Iraq, voter turnout was very high nationally, and suppressed only in the "hot" Sunni areas where political parties encouraged abstention and terrorists threatened voters' lives. Nationally, nine suicide bombers were met by Iraqi security forces, 29 voters were killed and 70 injured trying to vote. Nevertheless, estimates are that about 8 million voters braved fierce intimidation and cast the first free ballots there in half a century.

The best part was the counting. Iraqis in each voting center counted the paper ballot votes themselves - the election commission, the political parties and citizens - while observers from the United Nations, European Union and the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy - looked on with approval. The paper ballots were then sealed and sent to the central election commission for computer counts, where they can be recounted or audited at will - that's the right way to do it. In Iraq, there are no charges of fraud or secrecy, and the election commission is transparent about the whole process.

In Venezuela, RR voter turnout was very high - but augmented by two million new voters added late to the messy voter list, such as the FARC's Granda. Venezuelans at the voting centers did not count the vote - the CNE did a centralized count with new and non-audited electronic machines that could send or receive a vote count. When exit polls showed a 34% variation with the CNE count, and statistical analysis showed its count to be virtually impossible, no proper audit was transparently conducted to put these doubts to rest. The CNE sequestered the vote count as if it was protecting state secrets, while the Carter Center observers acceded to the CNE without any proof it was doing the right thing, only later to let slip in a Washington meeting, "We will never know the vote count in Venezuela."

Iraq conducted a transparent election and has the opportunity to build a national consensus. Venezuela conducted a sham election and is as divided as ever. From the two elections, one would never imagine that the country with the solid democratic election history, from 1958 to the present, was Venezuela.

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