Demands of the Living Dead

There’s tremendous pathos in this El Universal story about the creme de la creme of the Living Dead Opposition making 10 “demands” for improved electoral conditions before they’ll participate in December’s presidential elections.

For one thing, Accion Democratica doesn’t seem to have realized that they are no longer a parliamentary party – so ingrained are the habits of mind of parliamentarism that they continue to press demands on the all chavista National Assembly as though they still had seats there, as though they hadn’t maneouvered furiously to keep the opposition from participating last December.

Worse still are Antonio Ledezma’s Alianza Bravo Pueblo and the Polo Democratico – groups that oscillate bafflingly between refusing to recognize the Chavez regime (under Article 350) and pressing demands on it. All I can do is groan. Apparently nobody passed these guys the memo explaining that you can’t make demands of an entity you don’t recognize.

Anyway, this grisly parade of Opposition museum pieces has put together a list of 10 conditions to participate in elections, and however unseemly the petitioners, the petitions are hard to argue with.

  1. Naming a new CNE Board: The National Assembly is already working on this. (But will the new board be credibly non-partisan?)
  2. Manual counting of all ballot papers: Note they want ballots counted, not votes. This is what the strangely-worded Law on Suffrage and Political Participation (LOSPP) requires, though Jorge Rodriguez’s CNE has steadfastly refused to budge on this point, for reasons that escape me.
  3. Guaranteeing secret voting: Again, this is motherhood-and-apple-pie stuff.
  4. Preventing data transmission during the vote: This is a key point, but it’s also a point CNE had conceded in the run-up to the December 4th vote.
  5. Cleaning up the Electoral Registry: An audit of the electoral registry has already been announced.
  6. Doing away with finger-print scanners and electronic voter rolls: A major bone of contention. These machines are neither mandated nor banned by the law, but CNE had agreed not to use them in the run-up to December 4th.
  7. Setting and publishing electoral norms within established periods: An ongoing opposition gripe. LOSPP sets out explicit time limits for when various parts of the election rules must be published, and CNE routinely ignores them.
  8. Creating a plural National Electoral Watchdog: This is a new one. Point?
  9. Preventing the Armed Forces from interfering in voting: Another long-running opposition gripe, Army personnel have taken on a far more active role in running voting centers than the law allows. Legally, they are supposed to provide security and nothing else, in fact they have at times checked ID cards, refused entry to opposition witnesses, run the tallying procedure, etc.
  10. Restricting the use of public funds in the campaign: For as long as Venezuela has had elections, ruling parties have abused their access to state funds for campaign purposes. This has always been illegal, and has always been done.

Leaving aside for a moment my distaste for the groups that compiled this list, it’s hard to argue with its content. Six of the ten points (points 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10) are just reiterations of LOSPP – they don’t even count as concessions, they’re just requests for CNE to actually do what the law tells it to do. Point 1 is already being carried out, point 4 and point 6 had already been agreed in the run-up to the December 4th vote. The only really iffy one is point 8 – there is no mention of a Fiscalía Nacional Electoral in LOSPP, and I’m not really sure what the demand is about.

The good news is that the more extreme elements of the Traditional Opposition have put their demands forward explicitly. If a new CNE were to accept them formally, there would be no reason to continue the idiot controversy surrounding voting conditions, and the country could move on to an actual election campaign. The Has Been Opposition is not insisting on the more radical proposals making the rounds out there, such as doing away with electronic voting altogether, so there is no need to alter any laws to meet their concerns. Indeed, for the most part, the list just restates what LOSPP already says.

So if the government wants to end this useless polemic, it now knows precisely how to do it.