Today’s exciting news is that the Venezuelan electoral council’s website is working again. There you can find the latest figures from the 14 April presidential election, which now – as reported by the BBC – include the votes of Venezuelans living outside of the country. (They’re under the tab at the left marked “Embajada”, or “embassy”.)
Overseas Venezuelans voted overwhelmingly for the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles. In Australia, for example, he got 622 votes to Nicolás Maduro’s 15. But of course these voters are only a small proportion of the total, so including them didn’t change the result much. Capriles’s losing margin came down from about 1.8% to 1.5%, or about 225,000 votes.
Close, but no cigar. Unless there’s some serious, systematic problem, you’re not going to turn around a margin like that with any sort of recount. And if the opposition had hard evidence of such a problem, I can’t believe we wouldn’t have seen it by now.
Capriles, however, has been demanding a full recount (see previous report here). The electoral council has tried to mollify him by ordering an audit of votes, to begin next Monday (it’s expected to take about a week). But Capriles is not satisfied; according to the BBC he has pulled out of the process and “will ask the Supreme Court to annul the election.”
As I’ve pointed out before, the sort of things Capriles is alleging – such as government intimidation of voters – are not implausible charges, but they are unlikely to be detected by a recount. That suggests a degree of bad faith on his part. But that’s certainly not something he’s got a monopoly on: Venezuela’s basic problem is that neither government nor opposition really accepts the other’s legitimacy.
So, according to the latest report, the president of the National Assembly has adopted the practice of not allowing opposition MPs to speak unless they first acknowledge Maduro’s election, which they have refused to do. He may or may not have some legal grounds for that, but either way it’s stupid and childish.
This is one of those situations where everyone concerned just needs to step back and chill out. If the electoral council finds nothing amiss the opposition should accept the verdict, congratulate itself on how close it came in very difficult circumstances, and set its sights on winning control of the National Assembly in 2015.
The government, on the other hand, should tone down the abuse and the dirty tricks and try to demonstrate that post-Chávez Venezuela is a constitutional state.