Venezuela's Pitiful Election

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Turnout for Venezuela's parliamentary election on Sunday, which was boycotted by opposition parties, was a mere 25 percent. Venezuelan officials were not sure who or what to blame for the low participation, which puts in question the validity of the vote and reflects poorly on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Jorge Rodriguez, president of the National Electoral Council, blamed the weather. "There was severe rain in some states today that impeded voting,'' said Mr. Rodriguez, who is seen by opposition parties as aligned with the Chavez government.

According to Mr. Chavez, the Bush administration kept many of Venezuela's 15-million registered voters from turning out. The administration launched "another destabilization plan," he said, adding that Venezuela's opposition parties have "joined in the imperialist game and they're pulling out of the election campaign."

An assembly member of Mr. Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement, Calixto Ortega, elaborated on Mr. Chavez's conspiracy theory. "There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. government is paying the opposition parties to stay away on Sunday," Mr. Ortega told BBC. Needless to say, the Bush administration denied any plot to interfere with voter turnout.

Opposition groups said they decided to boycott the election because of concerns about the electoral process, particularly the confidentiality of voters. The low turnout for Sunday's vote contrasts sharply with the more than 60 percent of registered voters who participated in last year's presidential recall referendum, which Mr. …