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OAS Observes Elections in Bolivia and Venezuela: Was Democracy observed?

By Alex Beech

20.12.05 | The difference between the OAS reports on the elections in Venezuela and Bolivia is startling. While both reports mention that the elections were peaceful, they vary greatly in the levels of legality and transparency observed during both elections.

Whereas the Bolivian elections took place under “democratic normalcy”, the Venezuelan elections’ atmosphere of “mutual distrust constituted a central element of the electoral contest.”

Whereas Bolivia’s elections were “satisfactory regarding…the opening and closing of the [voting centers], in Venezuela “the polls closed between 5 and 7 p.m., even in several cases when no voters were in line, which was not in compliance with the schedule established by law. Moreover, the OAS report considered it “worth noting that the extension of the voting hours coincided with an intensification of the governing party’s campaign to increase participation in the final hours.”

Whereas in Bolivia, the OAS observed "the following of the norms established by the National Electoral Court," in Venezuela, “certain inconsistencies and gaps in the electoral law were observed, which reduced legal assurances and which suggest the need for a rigorous reflection on these laws.”

Whereas in Bolivia, “the Security Plan programmed by the National Police functioned conveniently,” in Venezuela, “poll workers and members of Plan República [soldiers] were the ones who decided the time the polls would close. These circumstances helped to create uncertainty and suspicion.” [EU report noted that soldiers were present in at least 25% of polling stations.] Additionally, in its report, the OAS lamented “the public statements made by a high-level leader of the governing party that sought to coerce the participation of government employees.”

Whereas in Bolivia, the OAS sought to “make public our sincerest congratulations to those who made possible a happy electoral day,” there is no congratulations towards Venezuelans who participated in the country’s elections.

Whereas in Bolivia, the OAS congratulated “the parties and the candidates, which demonstrated their democratic colors during the day,” the OAS noted in Venezuela “proselytizing activities on the part of high-level public officials, at the national as well as the state and municipal levesl, and an absence of strict mechanisms to control the use of public and private resources for political and electoral ends.” In addition, the OAS “observed, among political actors, an aggressive and discourteous public discourse about the electoral system.”

Was democracy served and observed in Venezuela?

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