Thursday, August 3, 2017

Smartmatic, conspiracies and conspiracy theories

After Venezuela’s electoral authority the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced on June 31 that 8,089,320 people had voted on elections the previous day for the new Constitutive Assembly, the opposition immediately cried foul. Participation levels were important as the opposition refused to participate in the elections. The opposition argued that the participation in the elections had not reached 3 million. But the only evidence that the CNE had conspired with the Executive to inflate the participation numbers were images of empty voting centers, and previous polls that showed that more that 80% of likely voters rejected a new Constitutive Assembly.

Since yesterday the claims by the opposition have suddenly received very strong support from Smartmatic, the e-voting company that has provided technical support in 14 of the last elections in Venezuela, including the June 30 Constitutive Assembly elections. Indeed, Smartmatic was accused by sectors of the opposition in previous elections of not revealing successive “elections frauds” in Venezuela. But now the company seems willing to do just that.
In a statement read in London by Smartmatic director Antonio Mugica, and first reported by the BBC, the company said it could not vouch for the results provided by the CNE: “Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turn out of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated. It is important to highlight that similar manipulations are made in manual elections in many countries, but because of the lack of electronic security and auditing safeguards, they go unnoticed.” Mugica also said that there was discrepancy of “at least a million votes” between Smartmatic data and what the CNE had reported. 

Also yesterday Girish Gupta, Reuters’ correspondent in Caracas, reported that according to CNE internal data, only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30. The polls closed at 7:00 and political analyst Jennifer McCoy told Gupta: "Although it's possible to have a late push at the end of the day, and the Socialist Party has tried to do that in the past, to double the vote in the last hour and a half would be without precedent."

And now it is of course the government, and government media, hinting at Smartmatic being part of a broad right-wing imperial conspiracy to discredit the election’s results. The main argument exposed by government media is that Smartmatic is contradicting itself by claiming its systems are robust and that electoral results cannot be changed. However Smartmatic claims that its systems are as robust as ever, but that the CNE ignored the control and auditing safeguards this time around, and simply reported a different result.

The head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, gave a press conference yesterday afternoon. She said that what has been said by Smartmatic amounts to “an opinion by a company whose only role in the electoral process is to provide services and technical support, which do not determine the results. These declarations [by Smartmatic] have been made in the context of a permanent aggression against the CNE.”

“It is not a private company, located outside the country who guarantees the transparency and credibility of Venezuela’s electoral system. Antonio Mugica says the differences between what was announced and what the system provided were a million votes, that is and irresponsible and groundless assertion,” added Lucena.

After Lucena’s press conference, the Mayor of Caracas and top PSUV leader, Jorge Rodríguez, declared that if it were not for “the violent acts of the fascist”, 10 million would have turned out to vote in the elections. Asked by reporters if the PSUV would ask for an audit of the process, he said that chavismo would not “play the oppositions game.”

President Maduro has announced that the newly elected Constitutive Assembly will be stablished this Friday, in the nation’s Capitol, where the National Assembly meets. Maduro called Smartmatic’s director Antonio Mugica “stupid” and said that “this electoral process cannot be tainted by anything because it is transparent.”

Maduro also hinted at possible future solution to Venezuela´s economic troubles: he will summon the members of the Constitutive Assembly elected from the “business sector” to Miraflores presidential palace, where they will meet with him every day and advise him on economic decrees to defeat the “economic unconventional war waged by sectors of the opposition.”

“I would like for you (business sector representatives) to form a powerful economic commission that will go to Miraflores every day to issue permanent economic decrees until we recover that economy of the country,” explained the President.

Here is an image published yesterday by Telesur explaining Smatmatic’s “contradictions”:

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