Archive for July 5th, 2004

The absurd controversy over the international observers

July 5, 2004

We have witnessed in the last two weeks an absurd discussion on the part of the Chavistas as to the role of the international observers. International observers are invited to electoral processes as a way of guaranteeing the transparency and cleanliness of the process, nothing else, and nothing more. Observers are invited to protect both sides, to warn of tricks and guarantee the results are valid.


Thus, it certainly sounds fishy and sends the wrong signal to the world to limit, restrict and regulate what they can or not do while they are here. In the regulations issued by the pro-Chavez CNE, observers will not be allowed to make any public comments! How absurd can you get? Imagine there is massive cheating by either side and the CNE is saying the observers will have to remain silent, write their reports and then go home? Simply absurd.


 


The level of absurdity is reaching such a point that in the latest proposal; even the number of days spent in Venezuela is being regulated. To me it is quite clear and it should worry those that are pro-Chavez that this is not a concern: The presence of international observers guarantees that both sides will respect the outcome no matter who wins! If you had one observer per polling station, it would be great! But the argument is that no election in the world has had more than 50 international observers (false: Peru and Nicaragua had many times more than that), thus why should the Venezuelan referendum have more?


 


The answer is clear; we want the outcome to be respected, clear, and transparent, without any possible or reasonable doubt. We want observers to go around the country freely (not only to the six states specified by the CNE), to speak out freely, to be allowed to visit, probe. As a loyal member of the opposition, I don’t want Chavez to come out and say, like he did after the signatures, that there had been a massive fraud (whatever happened to that?). I want the evidence to be overwhelming that he won or lost, fair and square, for everyone to se and accept. And the only way for that is to have thousands, if possible, observers roaming, probing criticizing and warning. The rest is revolutionary BS by those that, in my opinion, are planning to cheat or interfere with the recall referendum process.

The absurd controversy over the international observers

July 5, 2004

We have witnessed in the last two weeks an absurd discussion on the part of the Chavistas as to the role of the international observers. International observers are invited to electoral processes as a way of guaranteeing the transparency and cleanliness of the process, nothing else, and nothing more. Observers are invited to protect both sides, to warn of tricks and guarantee the results are valid.


Thus, it certainly sounds fishy and sends the wrong signal to the world to limit, restrict and regulate what they can or not do while they are here. In the regulations issued by the pro-Chavez CNE, observers will not be allowed to make any public comments! How absurd can you get? Imagine there is massive cheating by either side and the CNE is saying the observers will have to remain silent, write their reports and then go home? Simply absurd.


 


The level of absurdity is reaching such a point that in the latest proposal; even the number of days spent in Venezuela is being regulated. To me it is quite clear and it should worry those that are pro-Chavez that this is not a concern: The presence of international observers guarantees that both sides will respect the outcome no matter who wins! If you had one observer per polling station, it would be great! But the argument is that no election in the world has had more than 50 international observers (false: Peru and Nicaragua had many times more than that), thus why should the Venezuelan referendum have more?


 


The answer is clear; we want the outcome to be respected, clear, and transparent, without any possible or reasonable doubt. We want observers to go around the country freely (not only to the six states specified by the CNE), to speak out freely, to be allowed to visit, probe. As a loyal member of the opposition, I don’t want Chavez to come out and say, like he did after the signatures, that there had been a massive fraud (whatever happened to that?). I want the evidence to be overwhelming that he won or lost, fair and square, for everyone to se and accept. And the only way for that is to have thousands, if possible, observers roaming, probing criticizing and warning. The rest is revolutionary BS by those that, in my opinion, are planning to cheat or interfere with the recall referendum process.

The latest Greenberg poll: I am not worried

July 5, 2004

 


Everyone seems to be worried about the latest Greenberg poll which shows that the No vote is leading the Si vote. I am not. Basically, I find a few things in this poll puzzling and contradictory.


 


First of all, based on my fairly intense experience with interpreting polls in Venezuela I know one thing: The hardest variable to measure in Venezuela is whether the person plans to vote or not. In the last few elections, most pollsters were reporting abstentions below 20% and they all came in at levels near 40%, a significant difference. Moreover, this shyness about telling the truth is highest the lower you go in social strata, where abstention tends to be the highest. Thus, it seems very strange to me that the Greenberg poll will not even tell us what the raw data says, which is the proper way to do it given the problem with determining whether people will vote or not. As an example, the same techniques being use by Greenberg revealed in November that 4.4 million people were planning to sign the petition against Chavez and we know Sumate handed in only 3.45 million signatures, so the error is significant.


 


My second reason for discarding the data is that it contradicts most of the data, once you rule out “phantom” pollsters like “North American Opinion Research”, the only poll that coincides with Greenberg and is as “North American” as joropo or a Reina Pepiada arepa. I know most people do not trust Venezuelan pollsters, but I have the files from the last ten years and the main mistake by pollsters in the last three presidential elections was that only one pollster said Claudio Fermin would come in second place against Caldera in 1993, which he did. In fact, if you take the two races in which Chavez participated, pollsters would give their results as: Chavez xx%, #2 yy%, #3 zz% and don’t know/abstention ww%. If you subtract the latter and renormalize the data, no major pollster was out of the range of the final results. In fact, Consultores 21, which has the Si vote comfortably in first place today, was always accused of being pro-Chavez because in both elections it told the truth, it said that Chavez could not lose. Today it is being disqualified as “pro-opposition”.


 


My last point is qualitative. If I look back to 2001 to the Datos poll (Datos gathers the data for Greenberg) the latest Greenberg poll says that Chavez has exactly the same support and opposition that he did in 2001, very hard to believe in my opinion.


 


To me the Greenberg poll has something very positive about it: It undermines the confidence of the opposition leaders, forcing them to work hard and be very careful with what they do. However, it does have in my opinion a very negative effect in influencing the campaign by the opposition. Basically I think all of the opposition needs to do is to have its supporters go and vote, the Greenberg poll is making them think that they need to “attract” the pro-Chavez crowd in order to win. To me, the opposition has to concentrate in getting out the vote from its supporters, guaranteeing that there will be no fraud and that people do not feel afraid of expressing their opinion. After all, if more than 50% of the population really wanted Chavez to stay, then those of us in the opposition would have to wait another day and accept the results of this democratic process. But we will not have to.

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