THE SWEEPING result betrayed the grim reality on the ground. Approximately 68 per cent of the electorate returned Nicolas Maduro to power for a six-year term. But only 46.1 per cent of the population turned up to vote, down from the 80 per cent registered in 2013. Little wonder. How do you vote when you cannot find food?
Leading up to Sunday’s poll, it seemed Maduro was playing a game of cat and mouse. The election was scheduled to take place at the end of the year, but he abruptly pulled it forward to April 22 even though the constitution bans early elections. Then the poll date was changed again. It was pushed to Sunday. This alone tells us what we need to know about the election’s legitimacy.
Worse, irregularities in the schedule had a snowballing effect. There was a lack of time for standard electoral functions. The profligate legal barriers masked a stark reality: beneath all the talk of the rule of law, Venezuela is an autocracy in which bureaucracy is weaponised against opponents.
“We do not recognise this electoral process as valid, as true, as proper,” said Henri Falcon, a Maduro rival for the presidency, on Sunday. “For us there were no elections.” He said votes were bought.
There were also claims of fraud and voter intimidation. International observers were absent. Some voters were even reportedly offered food if they backed Maduro. The irregularities have led to several entities rejecting the outcome, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and countries like Australia, Canada, and the US. On the other hand, the list of countries that have voiced support includes China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Turkey. None of which are known for their sterling record on democracy and human rights.
Maduro may have hailed the outcome of Sunday’s proceedings, but that does not change the fact that it was a sham in form and substance, coming as the country continues to undergo a crisis.
In addition to food, water and medicine are in short supply. There are frequent blackouts. The annual inflation rate is 8,900 per cent, and could reach 13,000, according to projections. How is all of this to be turned around? Failed policy after failed policy has been adopted by those in power who seem hell-bent on staying there notwithstanding.
What the Venezuelan people need is a return to true electoral accountability, the kind that will ensure they have a genuine say. Until then, things will only get worse.