EU observation preliminary statement on Venezula's 2006 presidential election

The European Union’s Election Observation Mission has released a preliminary statement on the 2006 presidential election in Venezuela. The statement provides a generally positive assessment of the conduct of the recent election.

This is from the report’s Executive Summary:

1. The electoral process complied in general with international standards and with national legislation as regards the management of the electoral administration and the electronic voting system. The high turnout in the Presidential Elections, and the peaceful environment in which they were held, together with the candidates’ acceptance of results, open the way forward to improvements in the confidence that the general public has in the electoral processes, as well as their quality, and to dialogue between the main institutional and political stakeholders in the country.

2. The EU EOM applauds the efforts made by the new Board of Directors of the Consejo Nacional Electoral, appointed in April 2006, the political parties, and civil society movements, in creating sufficient conditions to hold elections that are acceptable to all stakeholders, factually demonstrating their desire to reach agreements on crucial aspects of the electoral process.

3. However, the EU EOM, has observed persistent problems during the campaign, such as the widespread institutional propaganda in favour of the President, and candidate, Hugo Chavez, and, to a far lesser extent, in favour of the Governor of the State of Zulia, and candidate, Manuel Rosales. Similarly, the Mission has noted an imbalance in the political coverage offered by the media, both public or private, and the CNE’s inactivity in attempting to redress the situation; as well as the participation of public officials in campaign activities for the incumbent candidate, be it of their own free will, or due to pressure from third parties.

4. The electronic voting system established in Venezuela is efficient, secure, and auditable, and the competence of its technical experts is consistent with its advanced technological level.

5. The use of fingerprint readers (captahuellas) neither violates the secrecy of the vote, nor is a source of fraud. On the other hand, they are not directly relevant in the exercise of the right to vote; furthermore, they are not nor trusted by a significant part of the electorate, and in certain cases, they led to unnecessary queuing during Election Day.

6. EU EOM observers evaluated the quality of the electoral process positively in 85% of the polling stations visited on Election Day. Similarly, the appraisal of polling station officials, regarding their knowledge of electoral procedures, was positive in 76% of cases, which leaves a margin for improvement in the management of the electoral process. No major problems were detected regarding the audit of closing, the random selection of polling stations, and the subsequent counting of voting receipts. The correct number of ballot boxes was audited in all visited polling stations.