High Abstention and Information Black-out in Venezuela Elections

Venezuelan bloggers report empty voting sites in today's elections for National Assembly Deputies.

After touring Caracas, The Devil’s Excrement estimates that abstention rates would be higher in this election than it was for the City Council elections last August in which abstention rates reached 68%, a very high percentage compared to Venezuela’s historical voting participation rate. Devil’s indicates that even in traditional chavista zones, such as Catia, turnout appears to be meager. There are no lines in voting centers in poor and working class neighborhoods, such as Petare and Caricuao; while downtown Caracas looked abandoned. (pictures in the weblog)

A pro-Chávez blogger reports moderate to low participation in poor and working class neighborhoods, and almost no voters in upper middle class neighborhoods. Luigino Bracci Roa estimates that abstention would be around 50%.

Another opposition blogger who went to vote – despite massive withdrawal of major opposition parties – says that machines were working properly in his voting center, so it takes a while for him, even though there were no many voters in line. Rodolfo also commented that churches were full, although he does not know whether people were just attending regular religious services or responding to Sumate's call for demonstrating against elections.

Very few bloggers are reporting what is happening outside Caracas. Daniel Duquenal reports a low turnout in San Felipe, where Chávez won the referendum by a small margin last year. A blogger from Barquisimeto reports that he was offered the equivalent to US $160 to vote for Chávez-aligned candidates. According to his story, he refused, but one of his friends did take the money and went to vote.

Several bloggers comment on the information black out surrounding today’s elections. Private TV channels overlook election news items, and, surprisingly, there is little coverage in the government-run TV channel.


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    The opposition boycott to the legislative process may have dented government legitimacy. But that can also be fixed by re-writing the constitution and re-defining democracy.

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  • Joe Buck

    I find the boycott suspicious, considering that international observers certified that previous Venezuelan elections were free and fair. If you know you’re going to lose, maybe it’s better strategy to try to depict the Chavez government as a dictatorship, by refusing to participate in elections. Then maybe we can repeat what happened in Haiti, where an elected leader was labelled a dictator and then overthrown by international forces.

    Now by saying this I am not saying Chavez doesn’t have some anti-democratic tendencies; he does. But then, so does George Bush for that matter, and so does the Venezuelan opposition (they backed a coup, and Chavez might well be dead today if someone hadn’t managed to slip him a cell phone as he was “arrested”).

  • The oposition withdrew after an audit demonstrated the electoral body could match voters to votes.

  • I still have yet to read a good argument as to why the opposition decided to boycott the election. The only agreement I find on both ends of the political spectrum is that 1.) abstention rates were high, which weakens Chavez’s political capital and 2.) Chavez’s candidates would have won big no matter what.

    It is tempting to suggest, as Joe does, that the opposition’s strategy was to make international observers more sympathetic to a future coup d’etat similar to the one that temporarily removed Chavez in 2002.

    My question is, if Chavez were to be forcibly removed from office once again, would the Venezuelan public once again rise in support and demand his reinstatement?

  • Maybe, a good argument for justifying withdrawal from the elections does not exist.

    I agree with opposition parties that the electoral process is somewhat tainted and the CNE is on the government side when they should be neutral. However, I don’t believe that withdrawing from the electoral process would help to make the situation any better.

    Although, most people overlooked this, some opposition parties kept running in yesterday elections (Causa R, Solidaridad, MAS, and several regional parties). They too were concerned about the likelihood of fraud, but they understood that the only way to make the system better is to keep working inside. Unfortunately, both private and government run media made people believe that the opposition as a whole was out the process, and calling for abstention.

    Abstention was going to be high anyway, because common people not longer believe in the value of voting under the current electoral authorities. I got the impression that even among Chávez’ supporters distrust in the CNE exits. Just look at the numbers of voters, I bet there are more chavistas than people showed up yesterday. And you can bet that there are a lot of people who are opposed to Chávez, even though they are unwilling to vote for the major opposition parties that are occupying the political scene.

    I don’t buy the coup d’etat threat. The opposition parties do not look like they have any plan; they just do not know what to do to get people to vote for them.

    Anyway, you can be sure that if there is an attempt of coup d’etat, most Venezuelans would be in the streets against it. Even those who are highly critical of Chávez, like myself. Most Venezuelans do not want an authoritarian government, an even less a dictatorship.

    That last point takes me to Pino’s initial comment. Don’t worry too much about communist dictatorship. Chávez knows his limits; he knows that chavismo would lose half of his supporters if they go too far in that way. Start worrying about poverty, political and economic exclusion, and militarism. Today, these are the real issues in Venezuela.

  • Del Valle Maldonado

    I´d like to know if someone among the ones giving some wrong opinion about this weekend Venezuelan ballout, lives or have lived or visited this contry in the past 7 years. Voting is not an easy decision to make, before an electoral comission like the one we have, in which all its members, starting with its President is a Goverment´s party activist. Impartiality is not granted in situations like this one. For example, the opening of all the boxes containing ballots after the closure of the voting act, has been a legal right and a tradition in Venezuela, but the electoral autorithies refuse now to do so, and give no valid or legal reason for this refusal. Recently, they agreed to open a 45% of boxes, but what happens to the remaining 55% (which is majority) when they fall into the hands of the goverment representatives and supporters inside de electoral comission?. The elections in which Vhavez won the Presidency was conducted under this premise. So, believe me, I don´t need any oppositin party leaders to show me ehich way I should go in this matter. You can be certain of the same attitude from millions of venezuelan citizens.

  • Me

    “Luigino Bracci Roa estimates that abstention would be around 50%”

    Just a little bit over 50%, let’s say 75%

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    High Abstention and Information Black-out in Venezuela Elections · Global Voices

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