Elections in Venezuela
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Elections in Venezuela are held at a national level for the President of Venezuela as head of state and head of government, and for a unicameral legislature. The President of Venezuela is elected for a six-year term by direct election plurality voting, and is eligible for re-election. The National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional) has 165 members (diputados), elected for five-year terms using a mixed member majoritarian system. Elections also take place at state level and local level.
Since 1998 elections in Venezuela have been highly automated (using touch-screen DRE voting machines which provide a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail), and administered by a non-partisan National Electoral Council. The voting age is 18, and (as of 2011) 95% of eligible voters are registered.
Venezuela has a multi-party system, with numerous parties. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) was created in 2007, uniting a number of smaller parties supporting Hugo Chávez' Bolivarian Revolution with Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement. PSUV and its fore-runners have held the Presidency and National Assembly since 1998. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), created in 2008, unites much of the opposition. Hugo Chávez, the central figure of the Venezuelan political landscape since his election to the Presidency in 1998 as a political outsider, died in office in early 2013, and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro (initially as interim President, before narrowly winning the Venezuelan presidential election, 2013).
- 1 Voting system
- 2 Party system
- 3 Polling procedure
- 4 Parliamentary elections
- 5 Presidential elections
- 6 Regional and local elections
- 7 History
- 8 Latest elections
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Under the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela, all Venezuelans over the age of 18 have the right to vote (Article 64). Additionally, long-term resident non-nationals over 18 (resident over 10 years) have the right to vote in regional and local elections (Article 64). Article 56 specifies that everyone has "the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of their biological identity, in accordance with the law."
According to the National Electoral Council, the proportion of the voting-age population on the Electoral Register has risen from 80% in 1998 to 95% in 2011, with 19m (including nearly 100,000 voters outside Venezuela) registered in 2012 compared with 12m in 2003. Voters register fingerprints and identity card details onto the Electoral Register, and these are verified during the voting process.
Venezuela elects at a national level the President of Venezuela as head of state and head of government, and a unicameral federal legislature. The President is elected for a six-year term by direct election plurality voting, and is (since the Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2009) eligible for re-election. The National Assembly (Asamblea Nacional) has 165 members (diputados), elected for five-year terms (see #Parliamentary voting system below).
Democracy in Venezuela developed during the twentieth century, with Democratic Action (founded in 1941) and its antecedents playing an important role in the early years. Democratic Action led the government during Venezuela's first democratic period (1945–1948). After an intervening decade of dictatorship (1948–1958) saw AD excluded from power, four Venezuelan presidents came from Democratic Action from the 1960s to the 1990s. This period, incorrectly called the "Fourth Republic" by Hugo Chavez and his followers, is marked by the development of the Punto Fijo Pact between the major parties (originally including the Democratic Republican Union, which later dwindled in significance), with the notable exclusion of the Communist Party of Venezuela. By the end of the 1990s, however, the now two-party system's credibility was almost nonexistent, mostly because of the corruption and poverty that Venezuelans experienced as oil wealth poured in during the 1970s and the debt crisis developed during the 1980s. Democratic Action's last president (Carlos Andrés Pérez) was impeached for corruption in 1993, and spent several years in prison as a result. The other main traditional party Copei, provided two Venezuelan presidents (Rafael Caldera, 1969-1974, and Luis Herrera Campins, 1979-1983).
Confidence in the traditional parties collapsed enough that the 1993 presidential elections were won by Rafael Caldera on around 30% of the vote, representing a new electoral coalition, National Convergence. By 1998, support for Democratic Action and COPEI had fallen still further, and the 1998 election was won by political outsider Hugo Chávez.
Since then, a range of newer parties (such as A New Era and Justice First) have been more prominent in opposition to Chávez than the traditional main parties Democratic Action and COPEI. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) was created in 2007, uniting a number of smaller parties supporting Chávez' Bolivarian Revolution with Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), created in 2008, unites much of the opposition. Hugo Chávez, the central figure of the Venezuelan political landscape since 1998, died in office in early 2013, and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro (initially as interim President, before narrowly winning the Venezuelan presidential election, 2013).
Since 1998 elections in Venezuela have been highly automated, and administered by a non-partisan National Electoral Council, with poll workers drafted via a lottery of registered voters. Polling places are equipped with multiple high-tech touch-screen DRE voting machines, one to a "mesa electoral", or voting "table". After the vote is cast, each machine prints out a paper ballot, or VVPAT, which is inspected by the voter and deposited in a ballot box belonging to the machine's table. The voting machines perform in a stand-alone fashion, disconnected from any network until the polls close. Voting session closure at each of the voting stations in a given polling center is determined either by the lack of further voters after the lines have emptied, or by the hour, at the discretion of the president of the voting table.
Voters register fingerprints and identity card details onto the Electoral Register, and these are verified during the voting process. Voters sign a register to confirm that they have voted, and have a finger marked with election ink.
After the polls close at any voting table, the following steps are carried out:
- The DRE voting machine is ordered to close the voting session.
- Tally scrutinization announced.
- Each voting machine prints an original tally sheet, each has a voter total and the number of votes cast for each candidate cast in that particular machine/table.
- Each voting machine is connected to the network and the results are sent to the vote counting center.
- Nine extra tally sheets are printed and distributed to the staff and the six representatives of the candidates that received the most votes.
- With the original tally sheet in hand the total number of votes cast is compared to the signed up sheet or electoral notebook. Finally, for those machines chosen for the audit (see below) the electoral ballots, or paper trails, are counted one by one to determine if they add up to the totals in the tally sheet. Any anomaly is mentioned in the tally sheet report, signed by the staff and auditors, and then sealed and given to the military for delivery to the CNE.
Random paper ballot audit
Once the tally scrutinization is complete the staff proceeds to perform a random paper ballot audit of 54.31% of the machines. Each voting center can have anywhere from one to twelve voting machines, occasionally up to fifteen. The staff randomly selects the tables/machines by drawing a number out of a paper hat. The size of the draw is dependent on the number of tables/machines.
The following procedures occur step by step:
- Polls closed
- Tally scrutinization finishes
- Random paper ballot audit announced
- The machines are randomly selected drawing numbers out of a paper hat
- The machine's serial number is recorded
- The corresponding paper ballot box is selected and opened
- The paper ballots results for each candidate are openly counted
- With the original tally printed from the electronic results, both results are audited
- Any anomaly (even if by one vote) is recorded in the audit report
- The original audit report is signed by staff and observers, officially sealed and handed to the military for delivery to the CNE
- Copies are handed over to the representatives of the two highest vote getters.
Parliamentary voting system
Elections for the National Assembly of Venezuela in the 2000 and the 2005 were conducted under a weak mixed member proportional system, with 60% elected in first-past-the-post voting districts and the remainder by closed party list proportional representation. This was an adaptation of the system previously used for the Venezuelan Chamber of Deputies, which had been introduced in 1993, with a 50-50 balance between voting districts and party lists, and deputies per state proportional to population, but with a minimum of three deputies per state.
For the 2010 election, the Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales (LOPE) (Basic law of electoral process) among other changes reduced the party list proportion to 30%. In addition, the law completely separated the district vote and the party list votes, creating a mixed member majoritarian system. Previously, parties winning nominal district seats had had these subtracted from the total won under the proportional party list, which had encouraged parties to game the system by creating separate parties for the party list. Under the new law, in 2009, electoral districts were redefined in a way that has been accused of favouring the PSUV, particularly in giving more weight to votes in the countryside over those in the city.
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Regional and local elections
Venezuela is a federal state; Venezuelan states have governors, which have been elected since 1989 (previously they were appointed by the President). Regional and local elections were introduced following the work in the 1980s of the Commission for the Reform of the State (Comisión para la Reforma del Estado, COPRE).
The 1998 presidential election was the first to be carried out with a non-partisan National Electoral Council. Traditionally poll workers had been provided by the parties, but in this election "a lottery was set up to draft 300,000 registered voters as poll workers". The elections also saw "the world's first automated voting system, which featured a single integrated electronic network that was supposed to transmit the results from the polling stations to central headquarters within minutes." The automated vote system enabled the Electoral Council to announce the results within 2.5 hours of the polls closing. After corroborating the results with the Carter Center, the losing candidate conceded several hours later.
Most recent elections:
- parliamentary: Venezuelan parliamentary election, 2010
- regional: Venezuelan regional elections, 2012
- presidential: Venezuelan presidential election, 2013
- Venezuelan Embassy in the UK, 20 May 2012, THE VENEZUELAN ELECTORAL SYSTEM AND THE ELECTIONS OF 2012, accessed 30 April 2013
- Venezuela en Noticias, 10 February 2012, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council: Supporting the Venezuelan Opposition Primary Elections
- Consejo Nacional Electoral Manual Operativo para Miembros, Secretaria o Secretario de Mesa Electoral. Retrieved 28 November 2006 (Spanish)
- The Guardian, 14 April 2013, Venezuela votes in hi-tech poll to choose Chávez successor
- CNN, Venezuela (Presidential), accessed 27 September 2010
- Donna Lee Van Cott (2005), From movements to parties in Latin America: the evolution of ethnic politics, Cambridge University Press. p29
- Crisp, Brian F. and Rey, Juan Carlos (2003), "The Sources of Electoral Reform in Venezuela", in Shugart, Matthew Soberg, and Martin P. Wattenberg, Mixed-Member Electoral Systems - The Best of Both Worlds?, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. pp. 173–194(22)
- Crisp and Rey (2003:175)
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 2 August 2009, Venezuela Passes New Electoral Law
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 1 October 2010, A New Opportunity for Venezuela’s Socialists
- Carroll, Rory (27 September 2010). "Venezuela election loosens Chávez's grip on power". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
- Romero, Simon. The New York Times, 26 September 2010. "Venezuelans Vote for Legislators".
- Latin American Herald Tribune, 27 September 2010, "In Venezuela, Opposition Wins Vote Total, but Chavez Still Dominates Parliament".
- McCoy, Jennifer (1999), "Chavez and the End of "Partyarchy" in Venezuela", Journal of Democracy, 10(3), pp64-77
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