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Venezuela opposition asks for international electoral observers

Venezuela's opposition has insisted on international monitors for the country's legislative polls in December. The country's electoral commission has made clear its opposition to the idea.

Venezuela's Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition lamented the "erratic" conduct of the CNE electoral commission in the run-up to the December 6 legislative polls. The government has refused to allow electoral observers beyond a small preapproved group from South America's Unasur bloc, negating in advance officials from the Organization of American States and the European Union.

"We have requested that the CNE accredit 500 observers and we have yet to receive a response," MUD coordinator Timoteo Zambrano told the Globovision news channel.

MUD members say observation would ensure transparent elections. One hundred sixty-seven National Assembly seats will be up for grabs in December, but opposition members say voters could stay home if they aren't sure the elections will be fair.

'Under suspicion'

The extent of the Unasur presence at the elections also remained unclear. Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal, for example, has backed out, and Venezuela's government has objected to the Brazilian jurist Nelson Jobim as a mission leader.

"Lamentably, the government has bogged itself down with the theme of international observation because it is looking for a boss that will serve its needs," Zambrano said. "Today we face the possibility that Unasur does not have a mission, because, among other reasons, time is very short to have observation at an acceptable technical level." On Sunday, CNE president Tibisay Lucena had said that the elections would be a distinctly Venezuelan process and that no international entity could guarantee transparency. Lucena said she would not allow for Venezuela's electoral system to be "monitored" by external bodies and that she would only accept the presence of Unasur if it played an "accompanying" role.

"The CNE is who guarantees the elections here," Lucena had said on Sunday, "and the scientific verification is done by the entire administration." She added that the results would be available for all interested parties to see.

MUD executive secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba (pictured) criticized the CNE's resistance: "It has resulted that Unasur's participation is in danger. Ms Lucena, you are the electoral authorities who are under suspicion and for conduct that has been condemned. International observers, unlike the electoral tourism that the CNE enjoys, implies the presence before, during and after the elections."

The opposition coalition has also accused regime-friendly candidates of using public funds to finance their campaigns. In recent weeks, the regime has also arrested

a former opposition presidential candidate

and sentenced another

to 13 years in prison

.

The vote comes amid

a border row with Colombia

.

mkg/jr (EFP, dpa)

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