November 25, 2015
Call for a Robust UNASUR Electoral Mission to Venezuela
Venezuela is headed to legislative elections on December 6, which is seen as a crucial moment in the country. The upcoming National Assembly elections have the potential to ease the country’s political tensions, but also the potential to exacerbate them. The stakes are high for Venezuela and for the region.
We therefore urge all parties, domestic and international, to make their utmost efforts to ensure that these elections are carried out in a free and fair manner that leads to results that truly reflect the will of the Venezuelan people.
In this regard, we regret that Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) chose not to invite multilateral organizations such as the Organization for American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) to carry out electoral observation.
We welcome the Union of South American Nations’ intention to conduct an electoral mission. The CNE-UNASUR agreement provides UNASUR with freedom of movement and allows the mission to make its report public. Ultimately the UNASUR mission’s success will depend upon its leaders. We encourage all UNASUR member states and the mission’s chief, Leonel Fernandez, former president of the Dominican Republic, to see this electoral mission as an opportunity to strengthen UNASUR’s capacities at the same time that it helps to ensure a successful election in Venezuela.
We similarly encourage the CNE to facilitate and respect the UNASUR mission’s independence, taking the opportunity to reaffirm the credibility of the country’s electoral system in the eyes of all Venezuelans.
We urge caution on the part of international community in interpreting the voting results. Interpretations should be based on evidence and an understanding of the Venezuelan electoral system, not simply on vague deductions arising from unanticipated results. Venezuelans will actually be voting in 114 separate contests—districts based on geographic lines and seats reserved for indigenous groups—to select the country’s 167 National Assembly representatives. Given the local nature of these elections, certain closely contested districts may become crucial to the ultimate outcome with respect to gaining a majority of the National Assembly.
It is important to understand that the UNASUR electoral mission will not be alone. Several highly competent and independent domestic Venezuelan groups will be carrying out observation. All of these resources should be taken into account and consulted, especially in the case of a contested election.
Regardless of the voting results, we urge Venezuela’s contending political forces—government and opposition alike—to commit themselves to peaceful, democratic, and constitutional paths forward.
Center for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia)
Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)
Conectas Direitos Humanos
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)