Caribbean News Now!

About Us Contact Us


Jump to your country or territory of interest

Advertise with us

Reach our daily visitors from around the Caribbean and throughout the world. Click here for rates and placements.


Submit news and opinion for publication


Click here to receive our daily regional news headlines by email.


Click here to browse our extensive archives going back to 2004

Also, for the convenience of our readers and the online community generally, we have reproduced the complete Caribbean Net News archives from 2004 to 2010 here.

Climate Change Watch

The Caribbean is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels brought about by global warming. Read the latest news and information here...

Follow Caribbean News Now on Twitter
Connect with Caribbean News Now on Linkedin

News from the Caribbean:

Back To Today's News

Commentary: Examining the eight million: An analysis of Venezuela's constituent assembly vote
Published on August 8, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

National Electoral Council (CNE) President, Tibisay Lucena. Photo: Flickr

By Jack Pannell
Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

On Sunday July 30, Venezuela held the vote for its Constituent Assembly. The National Electoral Council (CNE) has claimed a turnout of just over eight million people. This is over 40 percent of the electorate and, considering the main opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) boycotted the elections, would represent a strong turnout in favour of Chavismo.

The opposition MUD has attempted to undermine this vote, as it has done repeatedly in the last two decades, questioning CNE figures that historically have been consistently accurate. Media has also been quick to accept allegations of fraud against the CNE, while failing to call into question the opposition’s dubious count of 7.5 million votes in the unofficial referendum they held on July 16.

The CNE figure of 8,089,320 would be a remarkable indication of a political swing back in favour of Chavismo. Indeed, given the MUD boycott, the count would represent the highest number of pro-Chavista votes since Chavez’s re-election in 2012, and the second highest in Venezuela’s history. Indeed the turnout of 41.5 percent would be a greater proportion of the electorate than that which voted in the 1999 election for Chavez’s own constituent assembly.

Although the CNE has a solid track record in managing elections, these numbers have now been called into question by the software company that designed Venezuela’s voting technology, as well as by a Reuters analysis reportedly based on CNE data. A full audit however, has not yet been conducted by the CNE, nor have they released their full report on the vote. The president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, has rejected the allegations by the software company.

The Argument against the Figure

The MUD-led opposition has disputed the figure of eight million, citing empty voting centers as well as polling data that makes the turnout seem improbable. A poll carried out in May and June suggested that 85 percent of Venezuelans were opposed to the forming of a constituent assembly. These statistics make it hard to believe that more people would vote in the constituent assembly than voted for either Capriles or Maduro in the 2013 presidential election.

However, polls should not be taken to be a definitive indication of public support for or against the constituent assembly. Photographs of empty voting booths do not constitute a fair assessment of the vote as a CNE report on the election reveals that 45 municipal centers and 76 parish centers were disrupted by the violence and roadblocks of the opposition on the day of the vote.

Although there were accredited international observers from a number of countries, including the United States, another criticism that has been levelled is that there was no oversight by institutions such as the Organisation of American States. Of course from the perspective of the government this is completely understandable. When the Secretary General of that organization has declared the vote to be illegal there is little incentive for Venezuela to authorize OAS observation.

A nation refusing access to international monitoring does not necessarily delegitimize the vote. Several other OAS members have also chosen not to allow OAS participation including Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and those countries have not received the same scrutiny for that decision.

Similarly the 2015 parliamentary elections did not have independent monitoring by such OAS or other such organizations. The government certainly did not rig that election, and the opposition did not complain when they won 109 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly.

Another major criticism was that the government did not, as it usually does, provide indelible ink to all voting centers to ensure voters cannot vote twice. CNE documents indicate that an alternate procedure was established to contribute to a clear system of verification if a voter did show up at a center they were not registered at.

Although they did have a system of authentication in place, not distributing the ink in such a polemic election is somewhat confusing. It gives the opposition and the media a clear line of attack against the vote, for what would have been a relatively cheap and easy measure to enforce.

Some of the most damaging evidence impugning the reliability of the number so far is a report by Reuters from Wednesday morning that only 3.7 million people had voted by 17:30 on Sunday, meaning the vote would have had to have over doubled in just an hour and a half to reach the final eight million. The CNE has, at the time of writing, not commented on these allegations.

Also concerning is the fact that Antonio Mugica, the head of voting firm Smartmatic, has claimed that there was a discrepancy of at least one million votes between the actual turnout and the announced figure. Smartmatic has been used in Venezuela’s elections since 2004, and has never disputed the final tallies of any election or referendum.

Tibisay Lucena stated that “this is an unprecedented opinion on the part of a company whose only role is to provide certain services and technical support and not to determine its results”. She also noted that the system in place allowed each individual elector to validate their own participation. Additionally Lucena attacked the opposition for violently disrupting over 100 voting centers, and the United States for initiating a state of “permanent aggression” against Venezuela for conduction elections, which were permitted by the country’s constitution.

The opposition have a vested interest in undermining the government, and have in the past attempted to question fair election results. The MUD chose not to send any auditors to observe the election. Smartmatic itself has noted that this contested discrepancy would not have been possible if “auditors of all political parties had been present” for the election, as had been the case for all elections since 2004.

Contributing to the confusion is the fact that the CNE has, in the past, always released the detailed results of their elections, and as of publication has not yet done so for Sunday’s election. That said, Smartmatic has not released any data to verify its own claims either, and has stated it is waiting for a full audit to be completed first. There are certainly indications that there may have been some manipulation of the final vote tally, but an observed audit must be carried out to ensure that the truth is established.


There are strong allegations that suggest that manipulation of votes may have been committed during the vote for the Constituent Assembly. It should also be noted that some opposition figures allege turnout was around 2.5 million, a claim which is likely to be proven false. Both sides are politically interested in the turnout of the vote, and both have cause to try and manipulate people’s opinions of the turnout for their own gain. Moving forward a full audit and the publication of all electoral data are essential to try to determine the fidelity of the results of the vote.

Addressing charges of electoral manipulation with further charges and counter-charges is not the path to be taken. Fraud by the government, or allegations by forces attempting to delegitimize the vote, would undermine democratic processes, and legitimize, in the eyes of the opposition and foreign powers, their fears that the Constituent Assembly is a tool to maintain power, and not an attempt to solve the ongoing crisis.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit or email
Reads: 3500

Click here to receive daily news headlines from Caribbean News Now!



No comments on this topic yet. Be the first one to submit a comment.


As a result of our comments feature being overtaken in recent weeks by spammers using fake email addresses, producing a large number of bounced verification emails each day, we have reluctantly decided to suspend the comments section until further notice.

User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment author and are not representative of Caribbean News Now or its staff. Caribbean News Now accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Caribbean News Now reserves the right to remove, edit or censor any comments. Any content that is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will not be approved.
Before posting, please refer to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Other Headlines:

Regional Sports: