Mérida, 22nd July 2014 (Veneuelanalysis.com) – Grassroots members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela elected 537 delegates to the party’s 3rd National Congress on Sunday.
The congress, which begins on 26 July in Caracas, will focus on the organisation and programmatic platform of the governing party. President Nicolas Maduro will also seek support for planned state and economic reforms, and is expected to be elected as the party’s new leader, following the death of Hugo Chavez last year.
The 537 conference delegates were elected from among 20,000 candidates postulated by local PSUV branches last month. In addition, leading PSUV officials, parliamentarians, state governors and mayors will also have the right to be delegates at the congress.
Maduro congratulated chosen delegates on Sunday night after the results were announced. “In these 537 delegates a powerful leadership is emerging, that is coming from the grassroots,” he said on national television.
Diosdado Cabello, the vice president of the PSUV, said that 98,000 new party members had been signed up in the run up to the congress. He argued that the national gathering aimed “to transform the PSUV into a party capable of undertaking a revolution, not just winning elections”.
Cabello also repeated the commitment for all party authorities to face re-election by January 2015. Criticisms have been made by some groups in the PSUV that a new leadership will not be elected at this conference, and that the current National Council has been in place since the party’s foundation in 2008.
While the PSUV has 7.6 million registered members, the actual number of party activists is considered to be around 3 million, reflecting the maximum number that have participated in national election campaigns or internal elections.
Leftwing commentator Nicmer Evans criticised party authorities for not announcing the overall turnout of the election of congress delegates. He said that one unofficial estimate had put turnout at one million, and not officially announcing the turnout was “a show of weakness”.
“The reality is that this electoral process reveals serious problems….both in mobilisation and political motivation” he wrote on website Aporrea, arguing that the PSUV’s leadership must pay more attention to grassroots activists.
Meanwhile pro-government development worker and radio talk show host Franco Vielma argued that turnout had been “high for this kind of election”.
Through social media he added, “The important thing is the real issue: turning up at the congress and discussing and transforming the [PSUV]’s political reality, making it more relevant. Although I believe in social movements more than parties, I also think that the PSUV must revise and revitalise itself”.