It is seldom that a private company can play a role usually reserved for government institutions, the courts, NGOs or, at the very least, international observers. Yet even in this regard, Venezuela is setting a grim standard.
Smartmatic, the company that supplied the voting system, said turnout numbers for a constitutional vote in the country were “tampered with”. Election officials in Venezuela said more than eight million people, or 41.5 percent of the electorate, voted for the new Constituent Assembly.
But the CEO of Smartmatic, Antonio Mugica, said the turnout figures provided by Venezuelan officials had been inflated by at least one million. In a statement it published on its website, Smartmatic says that the automated election system used in Venezuela “self-reports any attempt to interfere with it.”
That feature, it added, “means that the system is designed to protect the votes from any manipulation and to immediately identify and alert of such an attempt.” That Mr. Mugica is of Venezuelan origin might expose him to suspicions about political motivations behind his claim. The track record of the company he founded should put any concerns of this nature to rest.
In the statement, Smartmatic says:
“Smartmatic has stood behind all the results of the elections held in Venezuela from 2004 to 2015, regardless of what political party won. When President Chavez won in 2004, we did not hesitate to endorse those results based on the many safeguards of our platform and the multiple audits that were carried out. This has always been the case in each and every election thereafter, including when President Maduro won in 2013 by a razor thin margin, or when the opposition won the majority of the National Assembly in 2015.”
This may be one of the very few cases in which a private company’s intervention may play the role that would normally fall to the courts. Yet checks and balances in Venezuela have long ceased to function, as has the economy, with tragic consequences for the population. Smartmatic is defending the company’s integrity. The worst it can be accused of is taking advantage of this for publicity. If so, it is doing it for the right reason: truth.