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Archive for Thursday, August 19, 2004

Chavez’s opponents reject referendum audit

August 19, 2004

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— Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday refused to take part in a special audit of the results of the president's landslide victory in a recall referendum, despite the participation of two respected independent organizations.

The National Electoral Council reported that with 96 percent of the votes from Sunday's referendum counted, its tallies showed 59.06 percent of the 9,402,892 voters backed Chavez while 40.94 percent voted to recall him two years short of the end of his presidential term.

On Tuesday, several leaders of the loosely knit opposition coalition known as the Democratic Coordinator had agreed to the terms of the audit, to be carried out by the council in conjunction with former President Jimmy Carter's Atlanta-based Carter Center and the Organization of American States (OAS).

On Wednesday, however, the group said it wanted additional tests on the machinery that tabulated the votes, saying the ongoing audit by the Electoral Council, Carter Center and OAS would not be able to answer the right questions.

Opposition leaders have said their own exit polls during the balloting Sunday showed Chavez losing the referendum by a vast margin.

Opposition legislator Nelson Rampersad said the Democratic Coordinator had found major anomalies in the tally sheets produced by the touch-screen voting machines.

In 25 percent of the results for the state of Aragua, for example, the number of "yes" votes produced by machines in the same polling station were either identical or nearly identical, Rampersad said. He showed reporters the tally sheets supporting the claim.

"This is mathematically impossible," he asserted. In other cities and states across the country, the Democratic Coordinator claims, the pattern of identical or nearly identical "yes" votes repeated, reaching 40 percent in the western state of Zulia.

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