New Parliamentarian Candidates Announced in Venezuela Amid Controversy

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced Monday that a former political opponent and two former opposition activists would appear on the ballot of the socialist alliance, the Great Patriotic Pole, for the December 6th National Assembly elections. The move coincides with the controversial barring of the Trotskyiest group Marea Socialista from fielding its own candidate list as well as fresh divisions within the opposition coalition following the expulsion of the Christian Democratic Copei. 

By Z.C. Dutka
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ricardo-sanchez.jpg

Ricardo Sanchez once formed part of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time), made popular by Maria Corina Machado. (Photo: VTV)
Ricardo Sanchez once formed part of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time), made popular by Maria Corina Machado. (Photo: VTV)

Santa Elena, August 5, 2015. (venezuelanalysis.com)- On Monday, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced that a former political opponent and two former opposition activists would appear on the ballot of the socialist alliance, the Great Patriotic Pole, for the December 6th National Assembly elections.

In a surprise announcement from Caracas, the Venezuelan leader welcomed Ricardo Sánchez, who currently sits in parliament for the opposition, Carlos Vargas, and Andrés Avelino, all of whom he insists have “acquiesced to join a democratic movement…and asked to form part of this admirable campaign.”

The Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) was formed by Hugo Chavez in 2011 as an electoral alliance headed by the governing United Socialist Party (PSUV), uniting a wide range of left-wing social movements and smaller parties.

The GPP alliance currently holds two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly as well as 20 of the 23 governorships across the nation.

Sanchez, Vargas and Avelino were introduced on the ballot as the leaders of a new party called “Alliance for Change.” 

After the announcement, Miranda governor Henrique Capriles Radonski told reporters Sanchez was a “dark figure” in politics and “an example to children of what they should never become.”

In response, Sanchez, who was chosen to replace hardline opposition leader Maria Corina Machado in Parliament in 2010, lashed out at Capriles via Twitter, threatening to reveal incriminating secrets against him.

Marea Socialista Controversy

The newly minted “Alliance for Change” party was approved on Thursday by the National Electoral Council (CNE), provoking further debate. 

Critics from the left accused the CNE of disparity, highlighting its failure to approve the Trotskyist Marea Socialista’s bid to run as an independent party. 

In May, shortly after Marea Socialista (MS) announced it was going to run its own candidates separate from the PSUV, the Supreme Court declared the party’s name to be unlawful, insisting the term “Socialist Tide” was a phrase or slogan rather than a proper name. 

The court accepted the party’s petition for an appeal, but the date has not been set. In turn, the CNE has avoided making a formal statement, though the deadline for postulation is in two days.

In the absence of a formal ballot, the banned party is attempting to ally itself with small, independent parties as potential platforms for their candidates.

As of yesterday, MS has forged such alliances in Tachira and Bolivar state, while conversations are underway in Caracas.

The party has positioned itself as an “alternative” for Chavistas disillusioned with the PSUV, which it has accused of corruption and inefficiency. 

When announcing the split, MS leader Nicmer Evans said the decision was motivated by the "necessity of a critical and self-critical vision" to correct the course of the revolutionary process.

In response to their criticism, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello has accused MS of “fifth columnist,” or treasonous behavior. 

Opposition Split

Meanwhile, the GPP’s opposition counterpart, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), announced this morning the expulsion of the party Copei for the upcoming electoral race. 

Copei, a Christian Democratic party founded by former president Rafael Caldera, played an important role in the neoliberal era preceding Chavez known as the Fourth Republic. 

The party’s dismissal stemmed from a Supreme Court ruling last week that put the MUD’s status in jeopardy due to irregularities in Copei administration. 

The verdict hinged on four elected Copei officials who were replaced in their posts without the approval of party members. 

Additionally, party leader Roberto Enriquez signed Copei’s name to the “National Transition Agreement” along with hardline opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, again without consulting the ranks. The document, released in February, called for the removal of the democratically elected Maduro administration without reference to constitutional procedure.  

In doing this, Copei members said, “Enriquez put his own personal interests above those of the party, and committed our organization to an event and to political determinations that had not been debated by us.”

Instead of waiting for Copei to elect new leadership as per the court ruling, the MUD preferred to remove them rather than risk being tainted by their questionable legality. 

The opposition alliance now seeks to fill the 27 slots that Copei would have occupied on their ballot before presenting their bid to the CNE.

In a separate announcement, the MUD named Freddy Guevara, a student leader closely associated with the jailed hard right Leopoldo Lopez, as the stand-in for Maria Corina Machado, after the latter was barred from candidacy after failing to disclose her income during her time as congresswoman.

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