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Venezuela's elections: The trick is in the law

By Teodoro Petkoff* | Tal Cual

12.07.05 | *Translation by Miguel Octavio | Today’s Tal Cual Editorial explains to us what Daniel explained so well to us last November about the results in the regional elections and once again in his most recent post about how the officialdom takes advantage of its control over the electoral authorities to simply violate the principle of proportional representation. So, you heard it there first from a blogger, but it is always useful to review what Petkoff has to say about how the law is being used to cheat in Venezuelan elections.

The trick is in the law by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

An old saying assures us that he who makes the rules establishes how to cheat. The “trick” in the Venezuelan electoral system is precisely in the law. The concern for advantageous control by the “officialdom” has left out of focus the grave problem of the electoral system consecrated in the Suffrage law, modified later by the Electoral Statues, under the rule of chavismo. Thus, for the election of collegiate bodies (municipal councils and the legislature), with this law and this statute, the largest political force-even if it is a minority, as long as it is the largest minority-always obtains a much larger number of positions than the proportion of votes it received.

In other words, the current system practically nullifies the principle of proportional representation and insures that the largest minority has an over representation in the elected positions. A party with 40% of the votes can obtain more than 60% of the positions up for grabs.

Let us explain ourselves. In the Suffrage law, approved in 1998, before Chavez, the mixed German system was established, which states that half the positions would be elected directly (50%) and the other half by slates-which would allow that at least half of those elected would represent the proportion of votes obtained. The positions elected directly by name would be subtracted from those obtained by slate, with which, at the end of the day, would yield a result which would be quite proportional to the actual votes. The modification introduced later, increased the number of positions elected directly to 60% of the total, without subtracting those elected from the slates and it left open the possibility of using the trick of the “twins”. That is, the same party splits its candidates into two parties: with one name it nominates candidates to be elected directly and with the other name it nominates the slate candidates. Thus, for example, Chavez’ MVR, with its own name, postulates candidates by slate and with the name UVE, its “twin”, it nominates those to be elected directly. Given that they are the number one political force, they can obtain, in theory, all of the nominal positions (60%9 of the total, by winning in all of the electoral circuits and, besides these, the proportion corresponding to the elected positions by slate, from which the positions elected directly are no longer subtracted.

The Germans, who invented the mixed system, introduced the corrections so that it would be impossible use the “twins”. The Mexicans made the same correction (the PRI became well known for the trick of the twins) recently to block the PRI from taking advantage of the ability to “make twins”

Of course, the trick works if the Electoral Board, the CNE does not declare the identity of the “twin” parties, but the electoral organization has nothing in the law that forces it to do it and in some cases, as long as the law is not modified, the same political sector can act through clearly distinct political parties, in order to sidestep any objections. Thus, for example, in the elections for regional legislative councils, Chavez’ MVR “twinned” itself with Podemos, which was obviously a different party. However, now Chavez’ MVR has its own twin wild card party, UVE, created by it in order to do without its electoral partners and legalized in a very sloppy way by the CNE. An impartial CNE would have prohibited such a coarse trick.

The Suffrage law needs to be modified so as to reestablish proportional representation and insure with it truly democratic elections, from which truly collegiate bodies may arise, which are truly representative of national opinion.

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