April 18, 2013

The Carter Center Calls for Mutual Recognition and Dialogue in Venezuela

During this time of tension and uncertainty, The Carter Center urges all Venezuelans to express their differences peacefully, respecting the legal order and the constitutional rights of all citizens.

The narrow difference in electoral results, coupled with strong societal polarization, call for the initiation of a new political dynamic characterized by a frank and sustained national dialogue to facilitate democratic coexistence.

The premise of this dialogue should be the mutual recognition of the political actors. Without this, the country cannot advance. The dialogue should include discussion about the minimum agreements needed to find solutions to the major challenges Venezuela faces, as well as how to define the rules and institutions that guarantee conditions of fair play during electoral campaigns.

According to the constitution, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has the legal authority to accredit the president-elect based on the election results. At the same time, the losing candidate has the right to submit a legal challenge in conformity with the procedures established by Venezuelan jurisprudence, and to expect that this challenge will receive the appropriate consideration from electoral and judicial authorities. Citizens have the right to express their demands and opinions peacefully, with state guarantees of their political and civil rights, as well as their personal security.

After publishing the electoral results, on April 15 the CNE accredited Nicolás Maduro as the president-elect of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. According to these results, the candidate of the governing ‘Gran Polo Patriotico’ coalition (GPP), Nicolás Maduro, received 50.75 percent of the vote while Henrique Capriles Radonski, the candidate of the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), received 48.98 percent.

Capriles had previously announced a series of concerns about the electoral process and solicited an audit of 100 percent of the precincts to verify the correspondence between the paper receipt of the electronically transmitted votes, the vote tallies emitted by the voting machines, and the voter registry log book at each precinct before deciding whether to accept the results.

In Venezuela, voting receipts are pieces of paper printed by the machines after electors submit their vote electronically. The official vote is the one cast electronically. In order to increase trust in the voting process, the CNE and the political parties reached an agreement in 2006 to compare the electronically emitted votes and the voting receipts on the night of the election in 54 percent of the voting tables, selected at random in each voting center at the close of the voting day.

Clear and transparent information about the voting process and results, including responses to complaints, enhances confidence in and legitimacy of those results. The Capriles campaign’s formal submission of the irregularities they have identified, and an expeditious and full response from the CNE, should help to lower the tensions generated by the April 14 election results.

The Carter Center condemns all acts of violence, no matter their origin, and sympathizes with those wounded and the families of victims of politically-associated acts. The Center further alerts that expressions of verbal aggression and contempt for individuals create conditions for physical aggression, particularly in conditions of high tension like those Venezuela is experiencing at the moment. The Center encourages and applauds the adoption of measures and language to avoid violence or discrediting of those who think differently.

As part of its monitoring of the Venezuelan political-electoral process, the Center accepted the CNE’s invitation to accompany the April 14 presidential elections. The delegation included former President of Panamá Martín Torrijos, ex-Minister of Government in Colombia Horacio Serpa, ex-Ombudsman of Costa Rica Rodrigo Alberto Carazo; Director of the Carter Center Americas Program Jennifer McCoy, Associate Director of the Carter Center Americas Program Marcelo Varela, and Carter Center Representative in Venezuela Héctor Vanolli.

In its role of electoral accompaniment, which differs from electoral observation, The Carter Center will not present an evaluation of the overall electoral process. The Center will publish a more complete report of its observations and suggestions in the coming weeks.

Contact: In Atlanta, Deborah Hakes 1 404-420-5124 or dhakes@emory.edu; In Caracas, Francisco Alfaro prensacentrocarter@gmail.com