Party of Venezuela’s Chavez Holds Historical Internal Primaries

Chavez's party, the 5th Republic Movement (MVR) held its first primaries this past weekend for the upcoming August local elections. While most of the voting went smoothly, some precincts had problems. Other parties in the pro-Chavez coalition will designate their candidates soon and present a unified slate with the MVR.

Caracas, Venezuela, April 12, 2005—Supporters of the governing party, the 5th Republic Movement (Movimiento Quinta Republica—MVR), voted in the party’s first nationwide electoral primary last Sunday.  Candidates were vying for the MVR ticket in upcoming local elections for Municipal Councils, scheduled for August, 2005.  While turnout was high—2.4 million according to the MVR—the primaries were characterized by widespread complications, resulting in the termporary suspension of the elections in many municipalities.  Those municipalities will try again tomorrow, with final results for the entire primary expected on Friday.

The exercise was complicated by the sheer number of candidates, according to Héctor Dávila of the MVR’s National Electoral Commission, who noted that this was the first time a Venezuelan political party had held an exercise in which the country could directly choose their candidates for 1, 200 different districts.  Said Dávila, “only 5% of the voting centers were disrupted by delays,” or approximately 50 out of a total of 1,200 voting centers.

Those regions where complications forced the vote to be temporarily suspended will vote tomorrow, said Dávila, who added that abstention in the Sunday vote was estimated to have been 20 to 25%.

According to the MVR, over 5,200 candidates are being elected to compete for the 5,618 positions at stake in August’s elections.  The remaining 418 posts (7.5% of the total) will be divvied up by other Chavista political parties, to provide a unified Chavista ticket in August.

Over the past month other Chavista parties strongly criticized the MVR for the unilateral manner in which they have imposed their overwhelming majority of representation in the presumed Chavista united front.  A collection of smaller pro-Chávez parties made public their preoccupations, calling for MVR director William Lara to recalculate the proportions in collective discussion with all pro-Chávez parties.

In establishing the division of candidates (70% MVR, 30% to the rest), the MVR used an established method of political organization named after the Belgian mathematician Victor d’Hondt.  The d’Hondt method allocates positions according to total votes received, a system referred to as “party-list proportional representation.”

Lara’s announcement of a 70-30% division between the MVR and the other parties was rejected by the “allied” parties, but on March 29th an agreement was reached that takes into consideration “qualitative as well as quantitative” measures in dividing up the candidacies between the MVR and allied parties.  The division was to remain at 70-30%, however.  The recent election of 5,200 MVR candidates for a total of 5,618 spots represents an MVR share of 92.5%. Lara, however, assured that the agreement with the other pro-Chavez parties would be honored and that some of the posts still had to be negotiated with these parties.