Mérida, September 10th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following his own accusations that president Hugo Chavez was violating electoral regulations, on Wednesday Vicente Diaz, one of five directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) recognised Chavez’s right to political expression as a citizen and also as president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
While the CNE is an independent and impartial body, it is well known that Diaz is aligned with the opposition.
Last Thursday Diaz held a press conference and accused Chavez of violating electoral regulations. He showed two videos of Chavez appearing with PSUV candidates and presenting his opinions about the opposition and about the parliamentary elections.
Diaz said Chavez’s speeches promoting candidates from his own political tendency was “ventajismo” or “advantage-ism”.
He also showed two clips from state owned Venezuelan Television (VTV) which had the jingle, “your mission is to vote”, and claimed the word “mission” was used intentionally because viewers would associate it with the government’s social missions.
He called on the president, ministers, and governors to “respect the constitution, respect the laws”.
Almost a week later, during Wednesday’s press conference, Diaz said in his opinion the law was “lenient” because all high ranking civil servants should be excluded from electoral campaigns, but in fact the law does allow their participation.
He also said that the Law of Electoral Processes stipulates the difference between civil servants and citizens: Civil servants cannot advocate for or against candidates. Diaz said his warnings to Chavez were as president of Venezuela not as president of the PSUV.
The CNE debated the subject for many hours, and decided not to approve Diaz’s request for the opening of administrative proceedings.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, added that the directors had concluded that there was no reason for civil servants to be deprived of their rights as citizens.
The United Democratic Round Table (MUD), the key opposition alliance, rejected the CNE decision and said it shows that the CNE doesn’t respect the constitution, lacked independence, and justified incompliance with regulations.
Head of the PSUV campaign, Aristobulo Isturiz, said the opposition was aiming to discredit the electoral process because, “they already have an idea of the results, and as they consider themselves defeated they’re paving the ground to justify that defeat”.
A very similar incident occurred in the lead up to the 2008 regional elections, in which Diaz solicited an official investigation into whether Chavez was violating electoral laws by acting as head of state while promoting PSUV candidates.
In that case, Diaz said Chavez had promoted the PSUV during an inauguration event, and had also made strong criticisms of one opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, and made reference to possible budgeting changes for Rosales’s region, should he be elected.
At that time, Diaz told a press conference that the president “has political rights as a citizen and the norms do not prohibit him or her from electoral activity. What they do prohibit is such activity while exercising his or her public function”.
This week Attorney General Luisa Ortega also announced that, for the first time in Venezuela, around 2000 public prosecutors, lawyers, and civil servants, will be assigned to evaluating any possible electoral crimes before, during, and after the elections.
She said the measure was to guarantee fair elections, “even though we are sure that the process will develop with complete normality”. She said the civil servants received training workshops.
And, as it does for every election, the CNE has started training the voting booth attendees. Attendees are chosen at random and Venezuelans can find out if they have been chosen through the use of a free call number. The CNE has chosen 438,756 people, and director Luis Piedra said so far in the first week 80,000 have turned up for training. He said that was more than 2005 where less than 40,000 people turned up.
Election campaigning for the National Assembly officially began on 24 August and will end on 24 September, as no electoral campaigning is allowed the day before elections.