When the CNE first reported the proposed methodology for the ratification process of the signatures, the opposition said that there were ten technical problems that would make the ratification process difficult for those that signed in the Reafirmazo. According to opposition sources six of those ten have been resolved and only four are inadequate for the Coordinadora Democratica.
What the CNE has done is to continue its string of tricks to make the ratification process as insurmountable as possible. In the same way that tricks were used to disqualify or place under observation a sufficiently large number of signatures, tricks are being used now to make the ratification process as difficult as possible.
Any rational person would argue that the ratification process should differ little from the process used in gathering the signatures. After all, any electoral authority always has as its main objective to facilitate the ability of the voters to express their opinion, not the other way around. In that peculiar logic of the Bolivarian revolution, this is not the case. Paraphrasing Francisco Toro’s article today, there is nothing Aristotelian about the logical process being followed by the CNE for the ratification process.
One can begin from the regulations issued in September for the ratification process. Such regulations clearly state that the process would use up five days. Now, five days is five days, not three, but using that incredible ability to make matters gray and wishy washy, the CNE has announced that the first day will be used for setting up the polling booths and the last one to dismantle them. Thus, in true Chavista magic trick fashion five becomes three but it is five. On the last day, people may go to regional centers which are few and far between, but the almost three thousand centers will be closed. Trick #1.
At the next level you have the number of centers to be used, the opposition finally managed to convince the CNE to use the same number of polling centers used in the Reafirmazo process, something that seems absolutely logical, but was quite a sticky point for quite a while. Originally, the CNE had proposed as many as a fourth of that number. Thus, the opposition managed to convince the CNE to stick to the same number. However, the centers will not be located at the same place where people signed during the Reafirmazo. Why? Since the process will be managed and controlled by the CNE, the centers will be the usual electoral centers used in elections and not the improvised polling booths used by the opposition in gathering the signatures. This will confuse people quite a bit. Trick #2.
In the Reafirmazo, signatures were gathered manually originating the huge problem (or trick) with the signatures with the same calligraphy. This time around, there will be electoral books in which the data for each person that has a valid signature or a signature that needs to be ratified will be included. However, in addition to this, there will be a PC with communications where the same data (we hope!) entered into the electoral books, will be entered by CNE operators. As we will see the presence of these PC’s becomes Tricks’ #3 and Tricks #4.
First of all, the CNE argues that it can not purchase the number of laptops the opposition wants. What the opposition has done is to calculate how long it would take for everyone whose signature has problems to go and attempt to ratify their signature. Their answer is that the 3000 centers are sufficient, but you would need an average of thee PC’s per center in order to process every one of them. The CNE refuses to give in on this point. They argue that the written forms have created such a problem that they want to have a parallel mechanism of cross-checking what is in the books. They also argue they don’t have the money to buy the 10,000 laptops that would be required to satisfy the opposition. Given that the CNE will run the process there seems to be no justification for this. If CNE workers will ask the person to show their national ID card in order to sign, how could anyone cheat on these books? Trick #3.
Once Trick #3 is in place, it automatically rules out the possibility of having itinerant volunteers visiting those that signed using the itinerant process, since it is not possible to have these people carry laptops all over the place. This is a very important point because while only 15% of the signatures were itinerant, most of the itinerant signature gatherers in the Reafirmazo, who visited those that could not go to the polling places either because they were sick or because they were intimidated, filled out the forms with the data for those signing. Thus, most of these close to 500,000 signatures are in the same calligraphy or “plana” category. This is actually a two pronged trick, first those that can’t go, can’t possibly ratify. Secondly, those that can go, have no idea to what polling station they have to go. Estimates are that only 25% of the itinerant forms that were invalidated may be ratified. Trick #4.
So these are the bad news, four tricks that make it quite difficult for the ratification process to be successful. The process is designed to satisfy only a fraction of those that could attend. However, there is also some good news that also needs to be taken into account:
-The number of signatures that the CNE has validated has apparently climbed once again above 1.9 million making the task easier for the opposition. Originally, CNE President Carrasquero had announced that more than 1.9 million signatures were valid, but the number was down by almost one hundred thousand signatures in the first database handed out to the opposition, but reportedly is up again the second database.
-The number of signatures that can be ratified has also climbed above 1.3 million above the initial value of 1.2 million.
-The estimate is that the Government will not be too successful in its efforts to have people that did sign go and say they did not. Estimates suggest that the number will likely be around 60,000 in the worst case scenario.
-Polls suggest that 85% of those that signed say they want to participate in the ratification process.
Finally, there is an additional negative: Some political parties and organizations have decided that under no circumstances the opposition should participate in the ratification process. Their help in getting the people out to the polling stations and motivating the people is definitely a negative.
These tricks are very real, those advising the Coordinadora Democrática on technical aspects may in the end tip the balance on the final decision to participate or not. If it looks like an impossible task, it will be a no go so as not to legitimize the Chavista lies, if it looks doable, the process will move forward and the opposition will try to get the people involved and participating using numerous strategies. At this point, with the current rules, it looks feasible but marginal. There are simply too many tricks.