Venezuelan Elections: Live Blog
|Written by CEPR|
|Sunday, 07 October 2012 06:10|
UPDATE 11:21: CEPR press release:
Chávez Re-Election Continues Trend of Left Governments Re-elected in South America
Economic Growth, Expansion of Welfare State Likely to Continue for Many Years
For Immediate Release: October 7, 2012
Washington, D.C.- Hugo Chávez’ re-election to another 6-year term shows that Venezuela, like the rest of South America, prefers governments of the left that have improved living standards and greatly reduced poverty and inequality, said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, D.C.
UPDATE 11:04: Henrique Capriles now making concession speech.
UPDATE 10:41: Official results: With 81 percent voter participation, Chavez - 54.43 percent; Capriles - 44.47 percent of the vote. (Remaining going to minor candidates.)
UPDATE 10:34 PM: RESULTS BEING ANNOUNCED NOW, HERE.
UPDATE 10:00 PM: Election monitors await the announcement of official results:
UPDATE 9:55 PM: An election monitor in Tachira state reports:
turnout here approached 90%, a tribute both to the CNE's preparation and organization, the dedication of the civil servants who spent long hours at the stations and, most important, to the Venezuelan people who are actively engaged in who leads their government. Despite the huge numbers, and the early difficulties with long lines and a couple of malfunctioning machines, no one reported any significant problems or concerns about the security of the process.
UPDATE 9:49 PM: An election monitor in Zulia state reports:
in Maracaibo [at] Unidad Educativa Nacional Privada Nuestra Senora del Pilar with 14 mesas and 7482 voters. This is our largest voting place. ...but was almost empty with vote at 70- 84%. Only minor problems with one machine eating paper receipts; one could be read the other one could not. All quiet.
UPDATE 9:27 PM: An election monitor reports:
Just spent almost 2 hours at a school in Pq Altagracia, a few blocks from the Presidential palace, witnessing the closing of two mesas and audit (citizens' verification) of one. To ensure all the electronic votes exactly match the paper receipts reviewed by the voters and deposited in the boxes, a random selection of 54% of the 39,000 machines are audited in an open process with witnesses from both parties and, in our case, a group of 15-20 international acompañantes.
We're on our way the CNE headquarters to hear Tibisay Lucena announce the results. Probably we'll be there for several hours.
UPDATE 9:20 PM: Some Venezuela observers are noting that Chavez campaign head Jorge Rodriguez apparently predicted the early release of an exit poll, via the ABC newspaper in Spain, that would show Capriles in the lead, and thereby give the opposition the pretext to claim fraud if the results do not turn out that way. As we have already noted, ABC ran such a story earlier today.
UPDATE 9:01 PM: AP reports:
The president of Venezuela's electoral council said Sunday night that voting stations would remain open where there were voters who had not cast ballots.
UPDATE 8:43 PM: A number of journalists are Tweeting on exit poll results that supposedly show Capriles in the lead, and some - including [correction: ABC, in Spain] - are even reporting on the much-Tweeted Varianza poll. But other polls show a lead for Chávez, and, as CNE president Tibisay Lucena just reminded the press and the public - a second time since the official poll closing time of 6pm - people are still voting, since turn out was so high.
UPDATE 8:32 PM: The head of the Chavez campaign (Comando Carabobo), Jorge Rodriguez, is giving a press conference.
UPDATE 8:05 PM EDT: CNE president Tibisay Lucena gave a press conference this evening to say that the election was a success, with massive turnout, but was not able to say anything about results. She reported that voting centers remain open while the last voters, in line, get their opportunity to vote.
UPDATE 6:48 PM: With polls supposed to have closed at 6:00 Venezuela time, except in cases where people were still waiting in line, media is reporting that many polling places have closed, but others remain open - notably some where voting machines have broken down. Aljazeera's Teresa Bo, for one, has Tweeted that she is at a center where a machine has broken down and 400 people are waiting to vote.
Rumors of various kinds, needless to say, are circulating as people anxiously await the end of voting and the tabulation.
Handicapping the election has been complicated by the fear felt by many Venezuelans that a vote for the opposition could bring retaliation.
Interestingly, none of the election monitors we've been in touch with in various parts of Venezuela have reported any voters expressing such concerns. Nor does the Times cite the Carter Center or any other outside groups that have affirmed the integrity of Venezuela's system.
UPDATE 5:28 PM EDT: Some of the reports from an election monitor in Zulia state from throughout the day:
On our way to Guajira. Passed polling station with maybe 20+ people waiting. All quiet.
Escuela San Francisco de Ashwini: Stopping here. There are 2500+ voters in 5 tables. Although a few people outside were complaining that people were pressuring voters, the coordinator said absolutely not. …689 people have voted so far. Spoke to witnesses from both sides. All quiet no problems.
UPDATE 4:48 PM: Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has cast his ballot, and AP reports:
...Capriles says Sunday's election has been completely peaceful and that voters are showing they can settle their differences at the ballot box.
UPDATE 4:32 PM: Another election monitor (not previously cited here) remarks:
Striking to see how orderly, uniform, and calm the process was in every location. I wonder how well the poll workers and volunteers hold up during the course of the long day, with some breaks; both voters and workers seemed committed to see it through, and many excited about participating--admirable!
UPDATE 4:18 PM: From an election monitor in Caracas:
Overall, things are running smooth, open, transparent, and well-organized. Also the centers are very uniform, with the exception of minor changes (a "resting room" in one; separate lines to give elderly and disabled priority access in another). There have been no signs of people campaigning in or around the voting centers.
We also went to Paraguay and another center in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda (where Capriles was the ex governor).
UPDATE 3:07 PM: An election monitor reports:
Tachira State has seen the largest turnout ever. By 11:00 a.m. half of the 1500 registered voters had voted. At certain polling places, lines were extremely long, with people waiting several hours. People were increasingly frustrated but determined to wait and to vote. Virtually everyone we spoke with, including party witnesses and voters, expressed confidence in the integrity of the process and secrecy of the vote.
UPDATE 2:44 PM: Another election monitor’s report from throughout the day so far, in central Caracas:
My group visited 5 Centros, ranging from 6-12 "Mesas" (voting rooms for 600 or so), from 5 different parishes (parroquias) in central Caracas…
UPDATE 2:33 PM: Chávez has concluded his press conference after answering questions about a successor, whether he will respect the election's result, and an opening speech in which he quoted President Carter as saying that Venezuela's electoral system is the "best in the world," and Lula of Brazil as saying "There is an excess of democracy in Venezuela."
UPDATE 2:03 PM: President Chávez now speaking following his vote, and greeting Rigoberta Menchu, Senator Piedad Cordoba, Danny Glover, James Early, and other monitors.
UPDATE 1:57 PM: President Chávez is casting his vote. He is expected to say a few words afterward. You can watch live here.
UPDATE 1:53 PM: An election monitor reports that:
In the Arevalo Gonzalez in Higuerote, a national observer comments that, in the eight centers he has visited in Miranda State, he has encountered no serious incidents and only 3 accidental blank votes. He's from the Red de Observadores Electorales de Venezuela, which has more than 600 observers spread out throughout the country.
UPDATE 1:49 PM: Report from election monitor at Santa Teresa, Caracas:
The smoothest voting station we've visited yet, and voters seem thrilled at the efficiency. Some voters reporting less than an hour total time from start to finish. Some enjoying ice cream and other treats outside as they wait to enter building. Common theme at all polling stations is that a close to 3 hour wait is to be expected, with some voters having "no complaints" at waits of even 4 hours, which is a bit surprising to some of the US/European/Russian-based observers. US/British observers compare our elections, on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively, to the more relaxed and inclusive Sunday election here.
UPDATE 1:44 PM EDT: Report from election monitor at Unidad Educativa Gabriela Muñoz in Barlovento, at about 1:10 pm:
9 tables and 5600 voters. Over 55 percent participation so far and there is still a long line outside with people that have waited over three hours!
UPDATE 1:20 PM EDT: Peruvian politician and author Mario Vargas Llosa has added his voice to those of other outside fear-mongers warning of possible "fraud" that would ensure a Chavez victory, among other incendiary comments.
UPDATE 1:15 PM EDT: More election monitor reports from Caracas, just coming in:
El Paraiso, Caracas. 10:15am. Long delays in middle class area. Some reporting waits of over 4 hours. Chants of "we want to vote" are heard as observers arrive, and Globovision has a reporter on the scene. Observers met with the voting center coordinator and tried to find a solution to slow wait times. Globovision filmed the observers leaving without talking to any. Some opposition voters felt it was a result of the high turnout, rather than anything politically motivated.
UPDATE 1:06 PM: Report from election monitor at Unidad Educativo Arevalo Gonzalez, Higuerote, Barlovento:
A big center with 7 tables and 4037 registered voters. Long lines outside, some people have waited 3 hours in the blazing sun (some use umbrellas for shade). Once inside the center they have a further wait in rows of chairs under a tarp.
UPDATE 12:59 PM: Reports from an election monitor in Caracas from this morning, just coming in:
8:25 AM - Altimano, Caracas. Long lines of calm voters. Voters reporting a wait of about 2.5 hours from start to finish, but this is a big improvement from 2006, when it took 6. When asked, voters insist that this is a reasonable amount of time to wait, in their view. Overcast skies have mostly cleared and it is sunny and mild.
UPDATE 12:49 PM: Election monitor:
Leaving Valencia. The last center we were at they had had a couple of problems with 2 machines, at least one of which was fixed within 30 minutes this morning. The Coordinator set up a waiting area in the shade once voters have been called into the center where they can wait until they go to their voting table. Besides the usual long lines, there's been no major disruptions, chaos or disorder. There are also water stations in at least 2 of the 3 voting centers I've been to.
UPDATE 12:03 PM: More Tweets from people with various political leanings are circulating regarding the possibility of voided ballots resulting from people prematurely pressing "VOTAR". Awareness of this problem via Twitter could perhaps benefit the opposition if, as we've noted that election monitors have reported, that "It appears that those who mistakenly vote blank are disproportionately those with little or no education, or the elderly."
UPDATE 11:48 AM: Election monitor in Valencia, Carabobo:
Just left another voting center in Valencia. Again very long lines to [get] into the center but once inside it's only a couple of minutes to vote. No problems with the machines so far. No one saying they couldn't vote.
UPDATE 11:34 AM: An election monitor in Guacara, Carabobo reports:
So far, the voters say they have had a very smooth process voting. It's taken them only 1-2 minutes each to be verified and cast their ballot. There are long lines of people waiting to vote, and while they said it's a wait, voters and the National Police have both said it's been peaceful and well organized. The military seem to be helping organize the lines and one voter I spoke to said they've been very helpful.
UPDATE 11:19 AM: Another Tweet from the Capriles campaign assures voters that the vote is secret:
UPDATE 11:04 AM: Election monitor at Unidad Educativa Lander, San José de Barlovento:
5 voting tables; 2454 registered voters. Long line of people sweating in the sun outside. This is a poor community and a number of voters are illiterate and/or unfamiliar with automated voting, posing sometimes significant challenges for voters and the members of the voting tables.
At another voting table a different problem is encountered. Of the approximately 100 people that have voted so far, two voted blank accidentally, because they didn't press on the vote button long enough, or pressed before the candidate's face had appeared fully on the screen [The problem the CNE has been warning voters of, see below]. Once they've voted blank they can't re-vote so they leave a written record of the incident with the members of the table. It isn't clear what, if anything, is done to address this problem.
UPDATE 10:45 AM: Another report from Barlovento: Barlovento, tierra del cacao! Though this area has a reputation for being overwhelmingly pro Chavez, there are as many signs along the road promoting Capriles as Chavez.
UPDATE 9:58 AM: An opposition message reportedly circulating via text casts doubt on CNE head Tibisay Lucena:
Efectivamente hay que esperar que la cara del candidato seleccionado aparezca completa para oprimir VOTAR, de lo contrario tu voto será nulo; así lo aclaró Tibisay Lucena por haber sido el motivo de mayor cantidad de votos nulos en el simulacro. ¡Corre la voz!
CNE officials are warning that voters must be sure that the image of their selected candidate fully appears on the touch screen before pressing VOTE.
UPDATE 9:54 AM: An election monitor at the Escuela Bolivariana Marquez in Barlovento reports: “A small line outside. Those who have waited the longest say they've been there half an hour. There is only one voting table as there are 489 registered voters here. A woman in charge of the ‘incident registry’ - which covers any serious difficulties encountered with the voting machines or fingerprint machines - says there has been no incident so far, ‘gracias a Dios.’ The two witnesses, representing the Chavez and Capriles candidacies, are both in a good mood. When asked if they get along okay, they hug each other and say ‘we're neighbors!’
UPDATE 9:34 AM: An election monitor at the Unidad Educativa Juan German Roscio in Barlovento reports: “9 voting tables. Hundreds of people in 9 lines out in the street, which has been blocked off by the National Guard. Everyone appears to be satisfied with the process, except a few who say that the lines are moving too slowly. The people who enter first provide their IDs and register, and then go to the classroom where their voting table is. On entering they place their thumb or index finger on the fingerprint identifier and, when their identity appears, they proceed to the voting table.
UPDATE 9:07 AM: Election monitors are reporting long lines in various parts of the country, and that sound trucks blasting music (sometimes Chávez campaign music) awakened people this morning.
One monitor spoke to the general who is responsible for 480 centers in San Francisco and Maracaibo in Zulia state, and asked him what he expected today. He said “peace” - that people will express their decision through this process. “It is the only way.” The monitor also witnessed this general talk to people with a chavista sound truck, who were blaring music near the voting center, which seemed to be agitating some of the voters, and appear to convince them to leave.
UPDATE 7:42 AM: Tweets from Chávez urging voters to mobilize early, and from the opposition campaign, reminding people that their vote is secret, and to vote "without fear", respectively:
UPDATE: 7:22 AM: Opposition and state media early this morning showed long lines of calm voters at polling centers, some claiming to have arrived as early as 3:00 am. International media also report that "Long queues formed at some polling centers before they opened."
7:10 AM EDT: The Americas Blog is live-blogging Venezuela’s elections today, in which millions of voters are expected to choose between incumbent President Hugo Chávez and opposition challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. We’ll be providing updates here throughout the day.
We’re in touch with various people monitoring the electoral process in different parts of the country, as well as journalists. And we’ll be tracking media coverage throughout the day, and also statements from the political campaigns, UNASUR monitors, and other sources.
We received news last night that 99 percent of polling places around the country had been installed. The CNE (National Electoral Council, the independent government body in charge of elections) expects to announce the results three hours after polls close.
An opposition demonstration – a cacerolazo, with banging of pots and pans – was carried out last night in Caracas. Tensions are reportedly higher than in past recent elections, and the reported closeness of the race no doubt has to do with that, although, as we’ve pointed out, the gap between the candidates is probably wider than has been reported in much of the media, when accounting for polling firms’ past bias. Capriles has said he would continue with the misiones and many of Chávez’s policies, but some in the opposition coalition have broken with him because of doubts about this, stemming from a supposed leaked white paper outlining the economic plan that Capriles would implement if elected, including a rolling back of the misiones and privatizations of various state industries, including the state oil company PDVSA. Capriles denies the white paper’s legitimacy.
For its part, the Chávez campaign has emphasized that Capriles and other opposition leaders have supported right-leaning agendas in the past and so the campaign does not represent the kind of change that the opposition candidate has talked about on the campaign trail. For the Chávez camp, the campaign has focused on consolidating on the gains that have been achieved so far, making the government more efficient, and doing even more in terms of the misiones and other popular initiatives.
Much media commentary has focused on Capriles’ youth and energy (contrasted with the cancer-stricken Chávez), while politically he has attempted to make himself over from a right-wing politician who participated in the 2002 failed coup d’etat against Chávez into a Venezuelan Lula da Silva, (Lula himself has affirmed that Chávez’s election would be a victory for Latin America, and Lula’s Workers’ Party has distanced itself from Capriles).
The big question today, aside from how many people will turn out to vote and who they will pick, is how the two sides will react. It is notable that the opposition has used fake exit polls in the past, for example in an attempt to claim fraud in the 2004 recall referendum; they subsequently boycotted the 2005 parliamentary elections on the grounds that the internationally supervised 2004 referendum was “stolen”. While the MUD has affirmed that it is satisfied with the key components of the electoral process, some MUD leaders have made troubling statements , and some extreme opposition members have warned of possible fraud, or violence if Chávez is declared the winner. Such a “Plan B ” of rejecting the results, however, could jeopardize upcoming gubernatorial and municipal elections in which observers believe the opposition could gain ground.