While the media reported the results announced by the right-wing opposition for its July 16 national consultation as fact, even its own “observers” have raised doubts as to its democratic credentials.
Though generally presented as a vote against the upcoming national Constituent Assembly (ANC), participants were also asked whether they believe the armed forces should back the decisions of the opposition- controlled national Assembly, instead of the government.
A further question asked voters whether they support the formation of a transitional government that would appoint new state authorities and hold elections at an undetermined date.
The questions essentially amounted to voting for a coup.
The opposition-appointed committee that ran the referendum declared that more than 7.5 million votes were cast in favour of its proposals.
However, a report prepared by an international team invited by the Commission of Guarantors of the Referendum in Venezuela that worked with the opposition in the lead-up to and on the day of the consultation emphasised a number of problems with the vote.
The first was the inability to reliably detect levels of participation and fraudulent voting given that “the absence of an electoral registry reduced the technical precision of the popular consultation in establishing the level of participation.”
To ensure that participation levels could not be scrutinised, the opposition immediately burnt all voting records. It also added that “there was no guarantee of the secrecy of the vote” — a basic principle in any democratic vote — as citizens had to “vote in front of those in charge of the table.”
Overall, the report concluded that given such shortcomings, the consultation could not be considered an “electoral” event, and instead amounted to a “political” one.
None of this stopped the world’s media presenting the results announced by the opposition as “evidence” that the “majority” of Venezuelans oppose president Nicolas Maduro and the upcoming ANC.
[Published in the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network July 2017 special liftout.]