Learn to read between the lines


The recent victory by Nicolas Maduro over Henrique Capriles in the Venezuelan elections and what happened afterwards should make us wary of how the Western press analyses a candidate's win.

Maduro won 50.8 per cent of the vote while Capriles got 49 per cent or in terms of vote count, a difference of only 265,000 votes.

Here's what the Associated Press (AP) had to say about Maduro's win -- "Nearly half of Venezuela's voters don't want Maduro in the presidential chair. He inherited a dysfunctional economy, a deteriorating power grid and one of the world's highest homicide rates."

Two days later, AFP said -- "The United States on Wednesday said it was too soon to recognise Maduro as Venezuela's new president amid concerns about ballot fraud, as it joined European Union calls for a vote recount."

"Top US diplomat John Kerry said, Washington was not ready to validate Maduro's narrow victory in which he defeated Capriles by a margin of 1.7 per cent."

As of today, however, Maduro has taken the oath of office as president of Venezuela with the backing of regional leaders as well as allies, Cuba and Iran.

Let's re-look AP's report, describing Maduro as having to face big challenges as he has only the support of nearly half of the voters. Just change the name to Capriles and you know what I mean.

It is also ironic to hear from the US about why it is not ready to accept Maduro as Venezuelan president.

In 2000, George W. Bush only emerged as the winner of US presidential election after a decision by the Supreme Court to award the state of Florida vote to him, which floored Al Gore's challenge with a mere 537-vote advantage.

Kerry himself understands the issue of ballot fraud when Bush again triumphed over him as the Democratic candidate in 2004.

Michael Parenti described the 2000 and 2004 US presidential race as "stolen elections" with this explanation: "In the 2000 presidential contest, 105 million citizens voted but in 2004 the turnout climbed to at least 122 million.

"Pre-election surveys indicated that among the record 16.8 million new voters, Kerry was a heavy favourite, a fact that went largely unreported by the press.

"Yet the official 2004 tallies showed Bush Jr with 62 million votes, about 11.6 million more than he got in 2000.

"Meanwhile, Kerry showed only eight million more votes than Gore received in 2000. To have achieved his remarkable 2004 tally, Bush would need to have kept all his 50.4 million from 2000, a majority of the new voters, plus a large share of the very liberal Ralph Nader defectors.

"Nothing in the campaign and in the opinion polls suggest such a mass crossover. The numbers simply do not add up," said Parenti in his blog.

Nevertheless, Gore and Kerry eventually conceded. Would they support a move not to validate Bush's win, I wonder.

In any case, Malaysia has not had to face the issue of razor-thin wins or a court order declaring who won because the winner always had a clear majority.

Another common feature, coupled with local bloggers who are anti-government, involve foreign reports that have a tendency to mislead readers about Malaysia.

Take an AFP report titled "Tight Malaysian election campaign gets under way" on April 20.

One paragraph said: "Under Barisan Nasional coalition, resource-rich Malaysia developed into a prosperous Southeast Asian economy."

Then, the next paragraph said: "Most of multiethnic Malaysia's 29 million people are moderate Muslim ethnic Malays who enjoy political supremacy and economic advantages over sizeable Chinese, Indian and other minorities."

How's that for balance reporting. On one hand Malaysians are living a good life because of Barisan Nasional, on the other it's because the Malays have been oppressing big segments of the other ethnic population all this while.

Malays in the present political set up do not hold absolute power because BN has many partners while the opposition also has the same concept. As for economic advantages, the writer did not present any data to support it.

The same line was used the next day with a little bit of amendment. "Umno has developed multiethnic Malaysia into a regional economic success under a formula that ensures political supremacy for majority Muslim Malays."

So now it's Umno that's responsible for Malaysia's success but using a racial formula for the benefit of one ethnic group.

One thing for sure, expect more of this kind of reporting slant in the days before and during the election. It may even continue if BN exceeds expectations and wins big.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro being sworn into office in Caracas on April 19. Reuters pic

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