Irregularities in Governing Party MVR Primaries Denounced by Party Militants

MVR party activists gathered outside the party’s Caracas headquarters yesterday and today to denounce alleged fraud in last week’s internal primaries. When the electoral registry closed last night at midnight, the pro-Chávez alliance had yet to agree on a unified slate in several states.

Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2005—Internal primaries held by the governing 5th Republic Movement (MVR) last week have come under harsh criticism by party militants accusing party leaders of fraud.  Dozens of MVR activists gathered outside the party’s headquarters, yesterday, denouncing the alleged fraud of party higher-ups and the continuation of the 4th Republic “dedocracia,” (appoint-ocracy) denoting the selection of candidates by party elite decree.

The MVR held internal primaries last week to select candidates for local elections on August 7th.  Negotiations between the MVR and other pro-Chávez parties have been repeatedly stalled by the other parties’ accusations that the MVR is proceeding in a unilateralist manner, attempting to dominate the proposed unified pro-Chávez slate for the elections.

Allegations of fraud in the internal MVR primaries, and the discord among Chavista parties risk augmenting abstention rates among Chávez-sympathizers.  Abstention rates for the election of the current municipal councils in 2000 reached 76.2%.  Whatever disagreements still unresolved last night at midnight will likely remain so, as the registration process for candidates with the National Electoral Council (CNE) closed at 12am.

Protesters alleging fraud didn’t seem to care if their concerns were moot after the closing of the electoral register, their numbers increased significantly today.  Caracas’ central Plaza Bolívar, just off of the Metropolitan and Caracas Municipal offices and near the MVR party headquarters, was occupied by a group in the hundreds demanding justice and denouncing what they described as 4th Republic-era corrupt and clientelist practices.

While protesters chanted “death to appoint-ocracy!” military leaders and government officials gathered in a cordoned-off area of the plaza to commemorate the 194th anniversary of Venezuela’s declaration of Spain in 1811.

The MVR primaries, held between April 10 and 13, were plagued by inefficiencies, confrontations, and frustration on the part of voters.  5,200 MVR candidates were selected for the total of 5,618 positions in 1,200 districts around the country.  Previous agreements between the MVR and other pro-Chávez parties such as Fatherland for All (Patria Para Todos—PPT), We Can (Podemos), and Venezuelan Popular Unity (Unidad Popular Venezolana—UPV) had divided candidacies according to size as determined by voting patterns during last year’s October regional elections, according to which the MVR would nominated 70% of the candidates, with other parties dividing up the remaining 30%.

During last week’s MVR primaries, however, candidates were selected for 5,200 out of 5,618 positions, or 92.5%, rather than 70%.  The result is unclear.  Head of the party directorate William Lara acknowledged late yesterday that agreements had yet to be reached between the MVR and other parties in the proposed pro-Chávez alliance in at least three states: the Andean state of Táchira, which borders on Colombia; the South-Eastern state of Bolívar, bordering on the Brazilian amazon; and the interior agricultural state of Guárico.