POLITICAL RIGHTS, “POLITICAL TRUCE” AND DESTRUCTION OF THE ELECTORAL ROLLS
1. After having declared on October 8, 1973, that the mission of the new Government is to “extirpate Marxism from Chile” and that any act of dissemination of that doctrine constitutes a crime (Decree-Law Nº 77), the Government instituted on October 11 the “political truce” declaring “in recess” all parties still in existence, that is, non-Marxist parties (Decree-Law Nº 78).
There has thus been created, at least in the letter of the provisions issued by the new Government, a kind of vacuum, a gap in the social life, because of the death of the parties with a Marxist orientation and because of the paralysis or weakness of the other parties.
It is clear that such paralysis or weakness is not produced in the field of ideas, in the minds of individuals, and therefore there will continue to be conservatives and reformers, and people on the right, center, and left. The vacuum, the gap, is produced in the field of the capable and lawful means to channel and permit expression and implementation of those diverse political views.
2. But the process has gone even further. In view of the fact that investigations conducted “by public and university agencies have shown the existence of serious and extensive electoral frauds,” Decree-Law 130, of November 13, 1973, declares, in an act of tremendous gravity, that all of the electoral rolls in the country are invalid. So that no doubts might remain, it adds that this means the inapplicability of “all legal provisions and regulations requiring verification of registration on the electoral rolls.”
In other words, it will not be possible to hold elections or plebiscites for some time to come.
This measure is supplemented by a decree of June 17, 1974, authorizing the Director of the Electoral Rolls to sell all the paper of the rolls to a paper factory, to “recover the raw material.”
The Santiago newspapers of July 7, published photographs documenting the physical destruction of the rolls, without which it will be impossible to exercise political rights.
3. What are the studies that have been made on the defects of the rolls and what would be the import of those defects?
The Catholic University of Chile conducted a study after the 1970 elections, which is included in the “Libro Blanco”, published by the present Government of Chile (Page 220 on). The study shows that some irregularities occurred in the elections, as usually happens in all elections. By way of conjecture, the study concludes that, at the time of the election, the rolls must have contained some 250.000 fraudulent registrations.
Since, the registered voters in Chile would have reached some 5.000.000 in 1970 as a result of natural growth, the number of fraudulent registration—even calculated by that conjectural method—would not exceed 5% of the total rolls.
It is inconceivable that, in these times, with the technical means available, when there is a choice between purging electoral rolls in which 5% fraudulent registrations are detected and destroying them totally, the decision is to destroy them.
4. The “Libro Blanco”, on page 7 establishes that the electoral frauds discovered were of four types:
a) Dual registration of one person, as both literate and illiterate.
b) Simple replacement of the voter (another person voting for him, taking advantage of the fact that the registered voter is out of the country, does not wish to vote, etc.).
c) Dual registration in different communities (it is calculated that there are between 50 and 80.000 voters with dual registration).
d) Voting for deceased voters whose names were not removed from the record.
Strictly speaking case “b” shows no irregularity at all in the registration. This is a misuse of identification document by a person other than its owner.
The work needed to identify and clean up the defects in the rolls caused by “a”, “c” and “d”, by applying present techniques, need not take much time.
But the total reconstruction of the electoral rolls in a country with 10.000.000 inhabitants and the geographic characteristics of Chile would take a great deal of time. It will be “a job that will take years”, as the Government Press Secretary, Mr. Willoughby, indicated to the newspaper “El Mercurio”.