The real questions about Maduro’s victory have not been answered
AFTER Nicolás Maduro narrowly won Venezuela’s presidential election on April 14th, his chief opponent, Henrique Capriles, immediately disputed the result. Two months later, the government is still struggling to put the issue of its legitimacy to rest, both at home and abroad. The latest attempt came this week from the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena. She claimed that a laborious audit of the tallies produced by electronic voting machines against the paper receipts that correspond to each vote had confirmed that Mr Maduro had indeed won by 1.49 percentage points.
Mr Capriles called the audit a “farce”. The CNE has refuted an allegation that nobody has made: that the machines failed to tally the votes properly. The opposition challenged the result in the supreme court on different grounds. It says that violence at polling stations, coercion, multiple voting and the casting of votes for the dead were on such a scale as to affect the result.
Evaluating these claims would mean checking thecuaderno (manual log) for each machine, in which voters place their signatures and thumbprints against their name and identity-card numbers, as well as the results from a fingerprinting system (known as SAI) intended to stop people voting more than once. The CNE has refused to release the logs (claiming it would be illegal); it has stalled about when the SAI data might be available.
The supreme court’s electoral chamber has not yet decided whether to hear two challenges filed by the opposition. Its president is on record as saying that the judiciary must serve “the revolution” of the late Hugo Chávez, which Mr Maduro represents. If the court refuses even to consider the cases, the opposition plans to go to international tribunals.
The root of the problem is the lack of independent institutions in Venezuela. Four of the CNE’s board of five are government sympathisers. The terms of three of them, including Ms Lucena, and those of seven supreme-court justices have expired. But the government has shown no inclination to reach agreement with the opposition on their replacements. Venezuela’s neighbours, led by Brazil, have recognised Mr Maduro’s victory but urged him to seek a consensus with the opposition. Reform of the CNE would be a good place to start.