Venezuelan parliamentary election, 2005
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The 2005 Venezuela parliamentary election took place on 4 December 2005. The election sent 167 deputies to the National Assembly of Venezuela, 12 deputies to the Latin American Parliament and 5 deputies to the Andean Parliament. Several days prior to the election, five opposition parties unexpectedly withdrew, shortly after a dispute over the voting process had apparently been resolved with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS). The opposition had been expected to get around a third of the Assembly seats, or even less; the withdrawal meant the opposition were scarcely represented in the parliament at all, as the opposition parties which did not withdraw failed to win any seats. 114 seats went to the President's Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) - up from 86, with the remaining 53 going to "smaller pro-Chávez parties as well as to independents and representatives of some social groups that support the government".
Both the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union sent delegations to observe the elections. In the runup to the election, there were concerns about the use of digital fingerprint scanners as part of the voting process. On 28 November the National Electoral Council (CNE), in a decision brokered by the OAS, announced that it would not use the controversial machines. Despite this, several days later five opposition parties withdrew from the elections. "The move surprised election officials, and some reports indicate that international observers were unhappy that the opposition had reneged on a commitment to participate in the elections if the digital fingerprint machines were not used." "In particular, the EU stated the CNE's decision to eliminate the digital fingerprint devices from the voting process was timely, effective, and constructive, and noted with surprise the opposition's withdrawal just four days before the election." The OAS criticized the withdrawal, saying that democracy requires an opposition committed to the electoral process.
Both the EU and the OAS noted a widespread distrust of the National Electoral Council. "The OAS delegation noted that there remains a distrust of the CNE on the part of a significant segment of the population in terms of the origin and composition of the CNE and the perception that its actions lack transparency and impartiality." The OAS recommended democratic discussion of various aspects of the electoral process to improve trust in the system.
The election proceeded largely without incident, although three small bombs were exploded in Caracas, injuring one police officer.
Election campaign and preparation
"In the lead-up to the December 2005 election, observers predicted that the opposition would struggle to win one-third of the seats in the Assembly and that the pro-Chávez parties would win a two-thirds majority control of the legislature."
Electoral process audit
Just weeks before the elections, an audit was made in presence of the National Electoral Council (CNE), OAS international observers and several political parties. During the audit, the opposition started claiming that the electoral machines recorded the sequence of the votes, while fingerprint scanners recorded the information of each voter. However, though the fingerprint scanners were altogether not connected to and in different places than the voting machines, and the lines of voters at each of the machine groups were totally unrelated, the opposition put forward the case that it was possible to unscramble the information, stating that cross-matching the data between the two machines could potentially show the voting details of those who voted. The reconstruction of this data is considered possible by some characters, allegedly due to the requirement of access to the voting machines and knowledge of the password. As an extra measure of reassurance, the CNE agreed to format the data held on the voting machines as soon as these finished transmitting their precinct totals to the CNE. As long as every voting machine also printed its precinct totals, it was easy for all involved parties to check the validity of the data as reported in both instances, the printed precinct totals and the partial results reported in the CNE tallying center.
Both the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union sent delegations to observe the elections. On 28 November the National Electoral Council (CNE), in a decision brokered by the OAS, announced that it would not use the controversial machines. The CNE stood by its claim that the fingerprint scanners were not usable to identify the votes. The same devices had been used on the 2004 recall referendum, and the state governors' elections that same year.
Political parties' withdrawal
Despite the CNE concession on the use of fingerprint scanners, five opposition parties withdrew from the elections. "The move surprised election officials, and some reports indicate that international observers were unhappy that the opposition had reneged on a commitment to participate in the elections if the digital fingerprint machines were not used." "In particular, the EU stated the CNE’s decision to eliminate the digital fingerprint devices from the voting process was timely, effective, and constructive, and noted with surprise the opposition's withdrawal just four days before the election." The OAS criticized the withdrawal, saying that democracy requires an opposition committed to the electoral process.
By the Friday before the elections, five opposition political parties had withdrawn from the election: Democratic Action (Acción Democrática), COPEI (Social Christian Party of Venezuela), Project Venezuela (Proyecto Venezuela), Justice First (Primero Justicia), and A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo). These political parties represented the majority of the opposition forces in the country. Vice President José Vicente Rangel declared that "they know that they are defeated because they too read the surveys and know that if they participate they will have a poor representation." He also stated that the U.S. Department of State, through their embassy in Caracas, was responsible for the withdrawals. The New York Times noted that "The opposition decision appeared to be aimed at appealing to international support and discrediting Venezuela's government, which has strong approval ratings." José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying "It's really hard to understand what exactly the political opposition leadership has in mind. But certainly it is not going to help them to present themselves as victims that deserve solidarity from the international community. With these kinds of tactics I don't think they'll gain any ground."
The deadline for candidate withdrawal was Saturday, 3 December, at 4:00 pm. The CNE announced that not all of the boycotting political parties formally withdrew, meaning that only 10.08% of the candidates were officially out of the elections. The withdrawals left most opposition parties outside the election. Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo), Red Flag Party (Partido Bandera Roja) and Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática) did, however, participate in the election, but won no seats.
CNE announced preliminary results that showed that the pro-Chávez party Fifth Republic Movement won 114 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly, and all other seats were won by allied parties. The Fifth Republic Movement list also received 89% of the vote for the Latin American Parliament  and the Andean Parliament. It is estimated that the turnout in the election was about 25% compared to 50 to 60% in previous parliamentary elections (2000 and 2002).
Some suggest that these results are a very important issue in Venezuela, since a two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to change the constitution. The Fifth Republic Movement now holds a sufficient majority to change the constitution with or without the support of other political parties.
The opposition and some international observers have made the claim that the abstention rate of about 75% demonstrates a deep distrust in the electoral process and the Chávez government, although in the context of the opposition withdrawal the abstention rate carries a different meaning than for a typical election, and previous poll ratings showed the opposition doing badly.
After the elections, divisions emerged over the last minute withdrawal from the elections. Primero Justicia activists in particular regretted missing the opportunity to be seen as the major opposition after the withdrawal of Democratic Action and COPEI.
|Parties||Votes for List||%||Seats (From list and nominal)|
|Fifth Republic Movement (Movimiento V [Quinta] República)||2,041,293||60.0||116|
|For Social Democracy (Por la Democracia Social)||277,482||8.2||18|
|Fatherland for All (Patria para Todos)||197,459||6.8||10|
|Communist Party of Venezuela (Partido Comunista de Venezuela)||94,606||2.7||7|
|Venezuelan Popular Unity (Unidad Popular Venezolana)||46,232||1.4||1|
|People's Electoral Movement (Movimiento Electoral del Pueblo)||38,690||1.1||1|
|Independents for the National Community (Independientes por la Comunidad Nacional)||30,041||0.8||0|
|Everybody Wins Independent Movement (Movimiento Independiente Ganamos Todos)||25,710||0.8||1|
|MOBARE 200-4F (Mobare 200-4F)||22,995||0.7||0|
|Militant Civic Movement (Movimiento Cívico Militantes)||21,012||0.6||0|
|Radical Cause (La Causa Radical)||18,960||0.6||0|
|Republican Movement (Movimiento Republicano)||18,601||0.5||0|
|Union for Human Rights (Union por Derechos Humanos)||18,208||0.5||0|
|Only One People (Un Solo Pueblo)||15,981||0.5||0|
|Justice First (Primero Justicia)||15,939||0.5||0|
|Emergent People (Gente Emergente)||12,924||0.4||0|
|Socialist League (Liga Socialista)||11,930||0.4||0|
|Free True Party (Partido Verdad Libre)||11,342||0.3||0|
|United Movement of Indigenous Peoples (Movimiento Unido de Pueblos Indígenas)||10,493||0.3||1|
|Movement for Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo)||9,118||0.3||0|
|Independent Organized Front for Portuguesa (Frente Independiente Organizado por Portuguesa)||9,042||0.2||1|
|Labor Power (Poder Laboral)||8,272||0.2||0|
|Democratic Action (Acción Democrática)||8,000||0.2||0|
|Active Democracy National Organization (Organización Nacional Democrática Activa)||7,868||0.2||0|
|Popular Force (Fuerza Popular)||6,885||0.2||0|
|Copei (Copei - Partido Social Cristiano de Venezuela)||6,730||0.2||0|
|Project Venezuela (Proyecto Venezuela)||5,645||0.2||0|
|Patriotic Unity of Carabobo (Unidad Patriótica de Carabobo)||4,899||0.2||0|
|Break Through (Abre Brecha)||4,599||0.2||1|
|Votes Cast (% of registered voters)||3,604,741||25,26|
|Valid Votes (% of votes cast)||3,398,567||94.28|
|Invalid Votes (% of votes cast)||206,174||5.72|
|Abstention (% of registered voters)||10,668,223||74.74|
|Source regarding number of votes CNE site and seats from National Assembly's one.|
- Washington Post, 5 December 2005, Chavez Allies Are Poised To Solidify Their Majority
- Mark Sullivan, Congressional Research Service, 28 July 2009, Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5riTiru9f)
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 29 November 2005, Venezuela’s Electoral Council Agrees to Opposition Demand
- El Universal, 28 November 2005, OPPOSITION AGAINST FINGERPRINT READING MACHINES
- El Universal, 30 November 2005, OPPOSITION AT ODDS
- BBC, 1 December 2005, Venezuela election boycott widens
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 29 April 2005, Three Key Venezuelan Opposition Parties Declare Withdrawal from Elections
- Juan Forero, The New York Times, 5 December 2005, "Chávez's Grip Tightens as Rivals Boycott Vote"
- (Spanish) CNE, 3 December 2005, SÓLO 10.08% DE LOS CANDIDATOS RENUNCIÓ OFICIALMENTE ANTE EL CNE
- (Spanish) El Universal, 4 December 2005, CNE ANUNCIA QUE LA PARTICIPACIÓN ALCANZÓ 25 POR CIENTO
- BBC, 5 December 2005, Venezuela 'landslide' for Chavez
- CNE, Cronograma
- The Daily Journal, 16 December 2005, "Defeat and victory sow dissent", archived at archive.org
- Con cerca del 70% de abstención, Chávez obtiene la victoria en las elecciones legislativas, Wikinoticias, 5 December 2005
- La oposición se retira de las elecciones legislativas en Venezuela, Wikinoticias, 3 December 2005
- Mark Weisbrot (Center for Economic and Policy Research), Larry Birns (Council on Hemispheric Affairs): Open Letter to the Journalists Covering the Venezuelan Elections (1 December 2005)
- (Spanish) OAS section on the Venezuelan parliamentary elections, 2005