Electoral Commission approves referendum, Supreme Court voids it

November 28, 2002

In what is already a controversial decision, the Venezuelan Electoral Commission approved the referendum for Feb. 2nd. late on Wednesday night by a vote of three to one, with one member abstaining. The member that abstained did so because he thought the signatures had not been checked sufficiently, the timetable was uncertain and it was uncertain whether there will be funds for it.


The decision is controversial because the Supreme Court had ruled that the electoral commission could only make decisons based on a qualified majority of four, but only three voted in favor of holding a referendum. The way it has been explained to me is as follows: On Nov. 17th. the Supreme Court ruled on two issues. One, it told the President that it had to expedite the approval of the Electoral Power Bill as it was, and could not send it back to the National Assembly, which was done. Within the same ruling, the Court said that based on the then valid Electoral Statute, it had to make all decisions based by the qualified majority of four. However, that statute is no longer valid since the Electoral Power Bill is now the law and it only requires a simply majority.


However, it is all moot, as the Supreme Court has just ruled  that the decision is not valid……


After reading the Court’s argument and finishing Thanksgiving dinner (my wife is a US citizen) I am amazed, within my limited legal knowdlege, at what the decision says. Basically the Court says that the transient Electoral Statute takes precedence over the recently approved Electoral Power Bill, because the new CNE has not been elected. This seems illogical to me. If the new Bill regulates electoral matters, it does not matter who and how many people occupy the positions in the CNE. After all, the Electoral Power bill says that current members of the CNE continue being in their positions as long as a new CNE is not elected. Thus, we are trapped in a chicken and egg situation, under the new law, 2/3 of the National Assembly are required to name a new CNE, but neither group has more than 50% and they will not elect a new CNE under the current tensions.


Thus, we have reached a very clear point: Two million Venezuelans have legally asked for a refrendum asking people whether they want Chavez to resign. The Constitution says 1.2 million can do it, but the Chavez administration has used every trick in the book to stop it, including the mysterious change in vote by one of the CNE members. Where is democracy in this? How can even Chavez’ supporters who are in the CNE object to the referendum? The answer is simple, this administration does not believe in democracy and because of this, the country will go on unlimited general strike next Monday. And we will be called coupsters  and  undemocratic for it!!!!

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