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Bleak Elections in Venezuela

By A.M. Mora y Leon | Publius Pundit

08.08.05 | First reports are in on today’s municipal elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is “winning.” But turnout is so thin that the government has extended voting by two (update: now three) hours to try to make it a double-digit turnout. First reports say it’s running at about 8%. Updated, with the polls closed, the turnout is estimated at 20%. That’s an 80% abstention rate.

What a sad sorry affair this is. Jimmy Carter must be so proud of his job instilling confidence in the system last August, which by his own words, was the aim of his observation of Hugo Chavez’s recall referendum. Besides this, note that Venezuela had all the fanciest and highest tech electronic equipment for this vote. Neither has made Venezuelan voters confident in the system, given the turnout. Clearly something else is needed to instill confidence. It’s not there.

This is not the first time Venezuela’s polling hours have been extended. They were also extended during the recall referendum, but for very different reasons - because turnout was so high. Ironic. Obviously, public perceptions of fraud and retribution are so strong that very few people are willing to participate in the farce.

Bloggers here, here and here have warned that the fingerprint machines are recording voters’ choices, something that could lead to retribution for those whose choices do not win, and other setups that should lead to a rigged result. It’s a sad picture.

Miguel reports a ghost town at the polls in Caracas and has photos of the polling stations to show it.

Daniel has an hour by hour superb (Daniel at his best) summary of the voting situation in Yaracuy state to the west of Caracas, cattle country, where he says the voting stations were “deserted” and the only people in the area were soldiers in Cuban-like military uniforms, definitely an ugly site, he notes. How this this for an observation?

In fact I could not help but to observe that the lottery ticket shop two blocks away had more people than the voting station. Obviously people know where the odds of a better future lay.

Daniel says that Mercal soup-kitchen coupons were reportedly handed out to chavistas who showed up to vote. In addition, Miranda state reportedly had busing in of non-locals to vote in the local elections, the media are covering that actively. He said when he voted, no one showed up at all. And voting had been extended from 6 to 7 yet again. Chavistas are saying it’s due to ‘high’ turnout and are making keister-covering statements on the state television. Sounds pathetic.

Nothing yet from Tomas Sancio in Miranda state, but will continue to monitor for his reports. Update: Tomas has checked in, he describes the intransparency of the voting process in his precinct in plain English. Read it here.

Miguel has a new post saying that Venezuelan government officials are admitting that turnout is exceptionally low, and voting hours are extended: “so that militants can vote.” (Do they mean FARC, I wonder? Does crossing the border from Colombia takes extra time?)

Meanwhile, a Chavista apologist named Oscar Heck at the spyware-laced VHeadline writes that the four private television stations are not covering this event. I would await a second confirmation from a reliable source but it’s here if you want to look at it.

Daniel reports that the ‘boring’ election is not so boring anymore - the cries of fraud have begun amid disputes over the extended hours of the polls - Venezuelan law says that extensions can only occur if there are people waiting in line to vote - not the case here. The election officials on television are defensively saying they did everything right and it wasn’t their fault turnout was so invisible. They sound nervous.

UPDATE: More than 12 hours have passed and there is still no word from the Hugo-Chavez-stacked election board that was nervously thrashing around on state TV trying to justify the turnout last night. The purpose of the electronic machines, nominally, was to ensure swiftness of results. I’ve seen swifter results in African elections. Something has broken down. Something is being hidden. They aren’t saying what.

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