Venezuela Completes Election Audit, Upholds Maduro Victory
June 19, 2013
By: Ryan Mulvenna | Printer Friendly
On June 11, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed Nicolás Maduro’s victory in the presidential election held on April 14. The CNE upheld the 1.5 percent margin of victory and declared that it had found no evidence of fraud or vote rigging, despite the opposition’s claims to the contrary. Supporters of defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles maintained the audit was incomplete and did not examine the election results closely enough to reach a definitive conclusion.
Tensions in Venezuela have been running high since the opposition refused to accept the results of the April 14 presidential election, which was held to fill the office left vacant by the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 5. Maduro won the election by approximately 200,000 votes, or 1.5 percent. The narrow margin, combined with suspicions of electoral fraud, led the opposition to conclude that Capriles would have won the election if the vote had been fair.
In light of this belief, the opposition demanded a full recount. However, the CNE would only authorize an additional audit. Fifty-four percent of the votes cast in the election had already been audited on the day of the election as part of Venezuela’s standard electoral practices. Thus the second audit examined the remaining 46 percent of the ballots. The audit compared the paper ballot receipts printed at the polling stations to the electronic records that were transmitted from the local polling stations to the central vote counting system on election day to ensure that the local results matched the national data. According to the CNE, 99.89 percent of the paper receipts matched the electronic results and all possible discrepancies had already been explained in a report submitted at the time of the election.
Nevertheless, the opposition claimed that only comparing paper receipts to electronic records was not thorough enough to rule out the possibility of fraud. Capriles’ supporters instead asked the auditors to compare the voter signatures in polling station registries to the digital fingerprints from voter registration records. As Capriles stated through his Twitter account, “An audit without the voting books? It’s a farce and the country knows it.” CNE President Tibisay Lucena responded to the opposition’s claim that the audit was invalid by stating that Venezuela’s electoral system was “armored against fraud and error.” Even so, Capriles accused the CNE of bias toward the ruling party and asserted that the CNE and the Venezuelan Supreme Court are dominated by Chávez supporters loyal to Maduro. Capriles is also challenging the election result in the Supreme Court.
Capriles alleged that many irregularities occurred during the election, including voter intimidation and the use of deceased voters’ identities to cast additional votes in favor of Maduro. He further claimed that Maduro had gained an unfair advantage through the overuse of state resources, such as special access to state media and the ability to pressure the country’s 2.5 million public employees to vote for the ruling party. The government, however, maintained that Capriles had no evidence to support his allegations and accused him of instigating the post-election violence that erupted in the wake of the April 14 vote.
Despite the opposition’s challenge to the credibility of the elections and the audit, Maduro was declared the winner and was sworn in as president on April 19. Since his inauguration, numerous political skirmishes have taken place, both domestically and internationally. On June 17, Maduro began working to improve ties with at least one domestic and international entity, the Catholic Church, when he visited Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The ruling party has not had the friendliest relationship with the Catholic Church in Venezuela, despite the Church’s influence on the Venezuelan people. Cardinal Jorge Urosa, the leader of the Church in Venezuela, has been vocal in his criticism of what he sees as the erosion of Venezuela’s democratic freedoms under Chávez and Maduro. Urosa urged Pope Francis to pressure Maduro during his visit to work with the opposition to focus on democracy promotion. Urosa further encouraged Maduro to tone down his language and cease the verbal assaults he routinely launches on his critics and political rivals, stating that Maduro needed to recognize the importance of political opposition in a democracy.
For previous news on Venezuela, please see:
Venezuelan Opposition Formally Contests Election Results
Associated Press (via Washington Post) – Audit by Venezuela Electoral Council confirms presidential win for Chávez heir Nicolás Maduro
Associated Press (via Washington Post) – Venezuela’s cardinal says pope should pressure Nicolás Maduro focus on democracy, coexistence
BBC – Venezuela audit confirms Nicolás Maduro electoral victory
BBC Mundo – Venezuela: Capriles critica auditoría electoral
Miami Herald – Venezuela auditors: No signs of fraud in contested presidential vote
Reuters – Venezuela vote council says audit confirms Maduro victory