Freedom in the World 2024: how the Venezuelan presidential election is being manipulated

Freedom in the World 2024: how the Venezuelan presidential election is being manipulated

Published on 27 Mar 2024

Venezuela is one of the least free countries

The presidential elections in Venezuela are taking place in a context in which citizen freedoms are at one of their lowest points. Venezuela, along with Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti are the countries that the organization Freedom House considers as countries without freedoms and the latest report of this organization warns about the threats in the face of a notably advantageous election for Chavism. 

The report Freedom in the World 2024, exposes the manipulation of elections around the world as one of the main causes of the global decline in freedoms in 2023, which lowered the score in 26 countries in the region. 

“Electoral manipulation was not only widespread, but also took a wide range of forms,” the report reviews, which notes that elections are such a powerful tool for conferring political legitimacy that even authoritarian leaders continue to hold them, although they also go to great lengths to minimize the risk of defeat. 

With the presidential elections scheduled for July 28, 2024, the Maduro government wants to control the results and stay in power by changing the rules of the game and torpedoing opponents. 

The Freedom in The World 2024 Report notes that given the risks associated with attempting to change the outcome of an election after the fact, it is far more common for governments to secure unfair advantages before voting day

Electoral manipulation thus takes three main forms: controlling who appears on the ballot, changing election rules, and using state resources to tilt the playing field in favor of the ruling party.  “Although often less blatant than post-election manipulation, these tactics are corrosive to democracy,” the report notes. 

These three forms of pre-electoral manipulation are found in Venezuela. According to Freedom House, one of the most widespread methods of manipulating competition in an election is to control the field of candidates appearing on the ballot. “This approach allows authoritarian leaders to maintain a thin facade of competitiveness for elections in which voters have, in effect, lost the freedom to choose who governs them,” the report reads. 

“A similar attempt to clear the field of viable opposition candidates was underway last year in Venezuela ahead of a planned 2024 presidential election. Opposition forces organized an independent primary to find the unity candidate who would face authoritarian ruler Nicolas Maduro, in power since 2013. The Supreme Court not only banned the winner, María Corina Machado, from participating in the elections, but a court also ordered the suspension of the entire primary process, in which 2.4 million people had participated and the authorities threatened the organizers with action. 

Another fact alluded to in the report is the blocking by the state Internet providers of the web page with information on the voting place of each citizen interested in participating in the Primary process.

The facts and the imminent risk of electoral manipulation for the upcoming presidential elections in Venezuela is something that is being investigated by Observatorio Digital ProBox since last year. 

The results of ProBox’s research are in line with the findings of the Freedom in the World 2024 report, highlighting the manipulation of social networks and media through which propaganda and disinformation flow in the country. 

From the manipulation with the “mega fraud” narrative regarding the opposition primaries, to the media manipulation in the election over El Esequibo, reporting the gender attacks received online by female candidates in the opposition primaries and exposing the attack on members of the country’s civic space in the framework of the elections, ProBox is taking care of recording how the balance is tipped in favor of the Government through manipulation strategies in networks. 

The greatest decrease in citizen freedoms in the last 10 years was recorded by Nicaragua, with a drop of -38 points in the index. Also on the list is El Salvador, with a drop of -24 points, followed by Venezuela with -23 points. 

Freedom in the World 2024 assesses the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories during the 2023 calendar year. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. The indicators are grouped into categories of political rights (0 to 40) and civil liberties (0 to 60), the totals of which are weighted equally to determine whether the country or territory has an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or No Freedom. 

Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti rank as the region’s unfree countries, but despite this, 2.3 million Venezuelans voted in an independently organized opposition primary aimed at selecting a unity candidate ahead of the 2024 presidential election, demonstrating, according to Freedom House, Venezuelans’ determination to reverse the authoritarian misrule of current President Nicolas Maduro by democratic means.

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