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Two more gems from Venezuela's CNE

By Veneconomy

04.08.05 | There are two procedures imposed by the CNE for the elections on August 7 that have given rise to considerable suspicion among analysts. What is more, most people find them difficult to understand, although that does not mean that they will not distort the results. These procedures are the changes to the constituencies and the so-called “morochas” or twins. Apart from the fact that these procedures are illegal, the changes to constituency boundaries have the effect of diluting the opposition’s votes. With this procedure, known as gerrymandering, surplus votes in one constituency are transferred to another. For example, imagine two neighboring municipalities, one where 80% of the voters favor the government and 20% are with the opposition, and the other where only 40% of the voters support the government and 60% side with the opposition. If the two municipalities are combined and the boundaries redefined, the result is two constituencies where voting will be 60%-40% in favor of the government, instead of one in favor and the other against.

The mechanism of the “morochas” is difficult to explain, but the results are easy to understand: it distorts proportional representation by giving additional seats to the party with the largest number of votes at the expense of the other parties.

In Venezuela, the D’Hont system is used to ensure the representation of minority groups. The system of elections to legislative assemblies and municipal councils is a mixed one, where 60% of those elected are chosen by name and 40% by list. It so happens that, in this situation, applying the D’Hont system to the two groups generates an over-representation of the party with the largest number of votes.

Assuming that voting is 40%-31%-29% for seven seats, proportionally, the seats should be distributed as follows: three, two and two. But with the unmodified mixed system, the distribution would be four, two and one. In other words, the party that wins 40% of the votes will end up with 57% of the seats.

Foreseeing this situation, the law contains a formula whereby the number of seats allocated to party “x” for candidates elected via the list is reduced by one for each of its candidates elected by name. This means that, in practice, an appropriate distribution of seats –that is three, two, two- would be achieved.

The “morochas” system gets around this adjustment mechanism by dividing the candidates into two parties, one for the nominal vote and one for the list vote. So, on Sunday, the Chavistas will vote for the MVR’s candidates via the list and for the UVE’s nominal candidates (UVE is a ghost party set up with the purpose of circumventing the provisions of the law for ensuring proportional representation). And because the MVR is running no nominal candidates and the UVE is running no list candidates, there is no chance of making a mistake.

Among the many irregularities denounced by the opposition is the fact that the UVE was “legalized” without having complied with the legal requirements for registering a party. So, apart from all the other subterfuges that have already been discovered, the CNE is allowing the use of a mechanism that will, on it own, ensure the government coalition a larger number of seats that it is actually entitled to.



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