After both the pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez groups have gathered the required signatures, there have been indications that the Consejo Nacional Electoral, might modify the regulations wunder which the signatures and the tabulations will be accepted or rejected. The point is a fairly subtle one. Essentially, in Venezuelan elections the final tabulations play an important role. Votes are counted at each polling station and a final document with tabulations and observations is drawn up by all the observers and signed. In the past, significant discrepancies between this document and the tabulated numbers, would lead even to the rejection of all of the votes from a polling station. As an extreme example, if the total number of votes exceeded the number of registered voters in a polling station, all those results were rejected and not taken into account in the election.
In the case of petitions for referenda, this tabulation becomes less relevant, since it will be the CNE itself that will add up and verify all of the signatures directly from the submitted forms. Thus, the regulations for these documents drawn up when the new CNE was named, dealt little with this subject. Well, now some pro-Chavez lawyers within the CNE have proposed a new set of very strict regulations which would allow, for example, for a whole set of forms from a polling station to be rejected if, for example, the number of forms that the document said contained differed by one. This is of course simply a maneuver designed to try to invalidate signatures wholesale. Moreover, the opposition has prepared all of its strategy based on the current regulations so that only a minimum number of signatures can be rejected by the CNE. Forms and processes were planned according to the regulations existing then. Moreover, it definitely smells fishy to be introducing new regulations after the signatures have been collected and handed in. The issue is so subtle and confusing that I have read dozens of times the statements by the Head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral yesterday in El Universal, and I am still not sure whether he concludes that it will be possible or not to invalidate a whole set of forms at once o not. At one point he seems to say that it will not, but at another the reporter concludes it is possible, using a variation the old Venezuelan electoral axiom “Acta mata planilla” (Final tabulation kills forms), which of course used to be “Final tabulation kills votes”. The opposition is now requesting that no modifications be made of the regulations retroactively and is saying that the forms will not be handed in until all regulations are in place.
Another trick, another day