The elections of Sunday May 20 in Venezuela were unrecognized by much of the American continent because they were considered illegitimate
Among the steps that a country must follow to be considered a State within the international community is subjecting to democracy and international cooperation that guarantees the friendship and support of the entire community. Venezuela lives a critical moment in its history, without democratic guarantees and with numerous denunciations the country experienced elections considered apocryphal by a high percentage of countries. Although Nicolás Maduro was officially re-elected as president of Venezuela, the international community is unaware of the legitimacy of the elections, which is why the question arises: what makes elections valid at an international level?
The question is not simple, because each country has a different political system, where the institutions that form it have different weights and counterweights. However, what is described on the international agenda as "democratic guarantees" can be summarized in some main points:
- Transparency: For there to be transparency in elections, election observers are used, both national and foreign, who will supervise that the votes are conducted in accordance with the law of the country, are duly accredited before the electoral authority and have specific functions. The role of the observers is not limited to the day of the election, but also to the previous days. In the case of the recent Venezuelan elections, there have been no observers from the European Union, UN, OAS, Celac, or Unasur.
- Impartial Arbitrator: Electoral authorities must have independence, but this is not always true; according to the law of each country, it may have less or greater control of the government in turn. In the Venezuelan case, the electoral authority is under the control of the government of Nicolás Maduro, which is reflected in the registered parties, the candidates, the exaggerated appearance of Maduro on the ballot, and other aspects.
- Legislative power: In most Latin American countries, the legislative power, with different modalities, is made to serve as a counterweight to the president. Its formation must be democratic, through free elections. While in some countries the majority of the congress belongs to a party other than the president, in Venezuela they are loyal to it, so passing laws is a simple process, that is, the opposition has been erased.
- Avoid the purchase of votes: In Latin American democracies this problem is common; for instance, in the past Mexican elections of 2012 a scandal was unleashed by the purchase of votes through bank cards or social support that marred the electoral process. The Maduro government exchanges votes for support for food, in the midst of the country's food crisis, the government abuses the most needy.
- Citizen participation: It is important that civil society be part of the elections at all levels, both in the electoral bodies, as well as within the parties, in polling stations and as electoral observers. But above all, the most important participation of citizens is in the emission of the vote. In the election on Sunday, 46% of the electoral roll voted, the same level as that of the elections in Chile in 2017, one of the most stable democracies in the region. In Costa Rica, 67% of the voters voted, while Mexico is expected to vote between 65 and 70% of citizens of voting age.
- Opposition: For a true democracy to exist, options are required, if the government in turn persecutes or blocks non-pro-government candidates then there is no opposition. In Venezuela, the opposition has been persecuted and has been denounced internationally. The opposition allows alternation by opening other possibilities to citizens.
No Latin American democracy fully complies with democratic guarantees; therefore they are considered developing democracies. Some like Costa Rica or Chile have obtained good results in the last decade, while others like those of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and at some point Argentina and Brazil have been left in debt to their citizens. This year there are still elections in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru that will test their strength and development as democracies.
Latin American Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio
Translated from "¿Qué hace que unas elecciones sean válidas a nivel internacional? Analizamos el caso de Venezuela"