December 3, 2007

Acta por acta...

Quico says: The implications of Chávez's defeat last night will take a long time to work out but, for me, the first questions is...50.7% to 49.3%, really?

It's totally surreal that, having won, we should be worried about fraud. But this is Venezuela, the land of the possible, and the desperately close final results announced by CNE are not consistent with pre referendum polling trends.

The unexplained delay in announcing results we saw last night, alongside the rumors that the final margin had been "negotiated" behind the scenes, leaves real room for doubt. Could it be that the No's victory margin was more comfortable and Chávez insisted on a face saving CNE announcement as a condition before he would concede?

Fortunately, if this is so, we will know. Quite soon. The student movement (the real winners last night) made a huge effort to make sure no one left their polling stations without their Hot Audit tally sheets in hand. This made it impossible to steal the final outcome, and the nation owes them a huge debt of gratitude.

Having won is no grounds for complacency, though. At the risk of seeming ungracious, they have to complete the task they started. They need to scrutinize last night's results, check them against the hot audit tallies acta por acta, and tell us clearly if they were massaged. Because the viability of the long, tortuous path back to democracy we stepped onto last night hinges on it.