November 25, 2007
International observers have not been invited and will not be monitoring Venezuela's referendum
CARACAS -- Relations between Venezuela's electoral authority and observer missions from the Organization of American States and the European Union have not always been cordial. On occasion, they have been downright frosty.
But when it comes to next Sunday's referendum on constitutional revisions, that's not going to be a problem -- because observers from the OAS and EU have not been invited and will not be monitoring the voting.
The Atlanta-based Carter Center, which also has played an important observer role in previous Venezuelan elections, will have a presence, but its work will be confined to monitoring the news media, not the voting.
''With last year's presidential election, the final invitation came very late . . . but informal discussions began very early,'' said a European diplomat, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. ``This year, there have been no informal discussions.''
Invitations have been sent to electoral bodies in the region, as well as to some European countries. But the date of the referendum was fixed so late that setting up the logistics of a full-scale observer mission would have been virtually impossible.
The European Union normally requires at least six months of preparation in order to observe an election.
The result is that the burden of determining whether the referendum process is free and fair will fall on national observers, led by the organization Electoral Eye.
''That's placed an enormous responsibility on us,'' said one of the organization's workers, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record. ``We're a very small group.''
Electoral Eye will have 400 observers in the field and intends to produce a quick count by about 8 p.m. on voting day, based on a sample of 100,000 voters.
There are about 16 million voters in Venezuela's electoral register.
Using the same method last year, Electoral Eye was able to predict the result to within two percentage points.
While the opposition has frequently alleged fraud in recent elections -- and boycotted the December 2005 legislative elections because it distrusted the process -- election observers have never detected irregularities that would have put the results in doubt.