E.U., U.S. strike opposing tones on Venezuela election fairness
Isabel Santos, member of the European Parliament and head of the EU observation mission, speaks during a news conference on the regional elections in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.
- Elections took place under better conditions than previous votes
- There were irregularities and a notable deterioration of rule of law
By Nicolle Yapur and Fabiola Zerpa / Bloomberg News
Petroleumworld 11 26 2021
Venezuelan elections Sunday were better organized than in previous votes, a European Union observer body said, stopping short of saying whether the event was fair.
The first E.U. mission to visit the country in 15 years said Venezuela’s electoral authority was more balanced and equipment more advanced than in past elections, while finding cases of violence, abuses of state funds and uneven conditions for candidates and voters. The mission’s head declined to endorse the vote as fair, saying it’s not the mission’s duty to act as an electoral “rubber stamp.”
“The electoral process is much more complex,” Isabel Santos said in a press conference in Caracas Tuesday. She plans to return to the country in late January or early February to deliver a final report.
In its much-anticipated preliminary findings on the municipal elections, the European mission struck a more neutral tone than that of the U.S. government. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed the vote as “flawed” by arbitrary arrests, harassment of political and civil society actors, bans on candidates and voter manipulation. President Nicolas Maduro’s “regime deprived Venezuelans yet again of their right to participate in a free and fair electoral process,” Blinken said in a statement.
Maduro’s government, facing a seven-year recession, crippled oil industry and economic sanctions, seeks an international seal of approval for Sunday’s vote as it tries to regain legitimacy lost after previous elections were deemed fraudulent. Government candidates dominated, winning the vast majority of races for governor and mayor, though the vote was marked by low turnout.
Campaigning in the run-up to the vote was largely peaceful, the main opposition parties were allowed to run and civil society organizations participated in the audit process, the E.U. report said.
On election day, the European mission saw cases of voter coercion across the country and widespread delays at polling places. They also highlighted the assault of an observer not affiliated with the E.U. and the killing of a voter in a shooting outside a polling station in Zulia state.
“There is no room for this in a democratic event,” Santos said.
The report also found “structural deficiencies” that made elections hard on the ground for opposition parties, including sanctions in years past by the judicial system, outright bans of some candidates, and the government’s use of state resources for campaigning, including its control over TV and radio coverage.
Most of the mission of 136 observers is set to remain in the country until mid-December, Santos told Bloomberg News. The group will continue to monitor vote counting as the winner in one of 23 governor races is still in dispute. It will also watch for electoral challenges that are likely to be introduced to authorities in the coming days.
By Nicolle Yapur and Fabiola Zerpa from Bloomberg News.
bloomberg.com 11 25 2021