Monday, Aug 16, 2004
By: Martin Sanchez, Venezuelanalysis.com
National Electoral Council president Francisco Carrasquero annoucing Chavez's victory
Credit: VTV, TV footage
Caracas, Venezuela. Aug 16. (Venezuelanalysis.com).- At 4:03AM, Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) announced that according to preliminary results, Venezuelan opposition to President Hugo Chavez will continue his term until 2006.
The announcement was made by the CNE President Francisco Carrasquero, and it was preceded by a separate announcement by CNE board members Sobella Mejias and Ezequiel Zamora, who cited technical reasons to question the announcement to be made by Carrasquero. Both Mejia and Zamora are believed to be aligned with the opposition.
According to the numbers, obtained from a tally count of 94,49% of ballots from automatic voting machines, the opposition failed to obtain more votes that those who wanted Chavez to stay. The "no" option obtained 4,991,483 votes representing 58.25% [note: original article miscalculated the percentage]. The "yes" option obtained 3,576,517 votes, representing 41.74%.
Manual count of votes from rural and low income urban areas where Chavez has widespread support, and where automatic machines were not used, could increase the President's margin of victory.
Voters waited in line for up to 10 hours in some cases.
Delays in the annoucement of the results are believe to be caused by intense negotiations between the Carter Center and the Organization of American States (OAS) election observing missions with the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator to convince them to accept Chavez's victory.
Opposition leaders have not recognized Chavez's victory claiming fraud.
Chavez spoke to thousands of his supporters concentrated outside the Presidential Palace in downtown Caracas. Chavez hailed the referendum win as a victory of participatory democracy over neoliberalism and imperialis projects. He has argued that his real enemy in the recall was U.S. President George W. Bush, whose government opposes Chavez. "This is a constitutional and popular victory," Chavez said.
After almost six years in office, the South American leader has managed to hold up his popular support after obtaining 56% in the 1998 elections and 59% in the 2000 re-election.
After numerous attempts to remove Chavez from power through unconstitutional means, including a coup d'etat, illegal strikes, and a management-led shutdown of the state oil company, the opposition put all their hopes in the recall referendum to oust the charismatic leader before the end of his term.
Recall referenda is a new constitutional right Venezuelans won thanks to the new Constitution drafted by an elected Constituency Assembly during Hugo Chavez’s first year in office, and approved by popular referendum. The recall of elected officials was an idea proposed by Chavez to the Assembly, and it was supported by the majority and rejected by the opposition, which now used that right to attempt to oust the President.
The recall referendum win represents the eight electoral victory of Chavez or his party in the last six years.
More than 400 international observers, including several ex-presidents, journalists, intellectuals, Human Rights advocates, and a mission from the OAS, came to Venezuela to observe the recall referendum process. Analysts define the Venezuelan recall referendum as the most closely monitored electoral process in the western hemisphere.
OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria announced on Sunday that the referendum results will be trustworthy.
"We are an example of Democracy in the world," said Venezuelan Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz.