Venezuela elections, elections in Venezuela
Michel Euler/AP
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Does US Disenfranchisement Rival Venezuela’s?

October 25, 2008 08:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
The European Union has condemned Venezuela for barring hundreds of Chavez opponents from running for office, but is the United States also guilty of disenfranchisement?

Corruption, or Just Politics?

The EU resolution condemned a decision by Venezuelan Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian to prevent almost 300 politicians from running in the November state and local elections. Yesterday, Russian maintained his stance, calling his decision “a measure against corruption,” entitled to him by Venezuelan law.

According to the International Herald Tribune, Russian is “a close ally of President Hugo Chavez,” and the list of barred politicians was “mostly opposition-aligned.”

The national electoral council of Venezuela “tentatively” accepted the list of barred potential candidates, including “some of the opposition’s most prominent leaders,” in June 2008, according to the Associated Press. Listed candidates called the action politically based, rather than anti-corruption.

In the international community, critics of Venezuela’s political system have been outspoken, while in the United States, a quiet contingent has been critical of American politics leading up to the 2008 elections. The Electoral College and voting rights of convicted felons are two issues that have come under attack in recent months.

This month, University of Missouri professor S. David Mitchell said “the current economic crisis could cause disenfranchisement, depriving citizens the right to vote.” Mitchell specializes in “felon disenfranchisement,” and has studied its damaging impact on communities.

Mitchell suggests that “the spate of foreclosures,” which has left many voters without a permanent address, thereby making them ineligible to vote, is a form of disenfranchisement, according to Eureka Alert.
Meanwhile, Gary M. Galles of the Los Angeles Daily News addresses “the Electoral College’s disenfranchisement of voters in ‘safe’ states.” Galles disputes the idea that the national-popular-vote bill passed by the California Legislature would put an end to the problem. Instead, he suggests that states “assign electoral votes to each district’s winner (plus two to the state vote winner) rather than a state-level winner-take-all system,” which would make every district’s voters count.

Related Topic: Zimbabwe

In April 2008, Human Rights Watch reported that Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party was utilizing “a network of informal detention centers to beat, torture, and intimidate opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans,” which U.K. Foreign Secretary David Milliband interpreted as an attempt by Mugabe to “steal the election.” Despite the scare tactics, most Zimbabweans voted against Mugabe in the national elections.

Opinion & Analysis: Chavez’s politics

An April 2007 editorial in The New York Times focused on the political tactics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Depicted as steps toward “participatory democracy,” constitutional amendments allowing Chavez to be “re-elected indefinitely” were actually “another step in the march to increase his government’s control over Venezuela’s politics and economy,” the editorial said.

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