Caracas, March 1, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The majority of Venezuela’s smaller political parties look set to boycott a mandatory registration process to renew their legal status with the National Electoral Council (CNE), which could see many of them prohibited from taking part in future elections.
Beginning on March 4, political parties which did not manage to win at least 1% of the vote in the legislative elections of December 2015 will be required to take part in the CNE procedure, in which parties will be assigned a two day window to register their members using biometric voting machines in centres across the country. To remain legal, parties will have to prove that they have a membership base equal to at least 0.5 percent of registered voters across 12 states of their choice.
However the process has come under fire from opposition and pro-government parties alike, which have denounced the regulations as punitive and unnecessarily difficult to meet for small parties. With three days to go until the process is due to begin, just 11 parties have confirmed that they plan to take part out of a total of 59 which are required to do so.
Amongst the ranks of small pro-government parties, only the Tupamaros and the leftist party Podemos have confirmed that they will participate in the process. Meanwhile, on the opposition side, the Popular Will party (VP), Democratic Action (AD), Project Venezuela (PV), the Brave People Alliance (ABP), Progressive Advance (AP), the Christian Democrat party COPEI, First Justice (PJ), A New Era (UNT), the Progressive Movement of Venezuela (MPV) and the independent Electoral Movement of the People have also publicly declared their intention to register.
Nonetheless, the regulations have sown further divisions within the infamously fractured opposition coalition known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Although the four main parties of the coalition known as the G4, which includes VP, AD, PJ and UNT, say they will re-register their individual parties “under protest”, several of the more than 15 smaller member parties have rejected the process and pressured the coalition to boycott.
But tensions have also arisen in the pro-Chavista bloc over the procedure, and organizations such as the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and the movement REDES have vowed to fight the process in court. In particular they have expressed concern over the use of the 1965 Law of Political Parties as a legal basis for the registration.
On February 16, the PCV officially submitted a legal request to the Supreme Court to nullify article 25 of the law on the grounds that it contradicts the country’s 1999 constitution by obliging parties to share details of their membership and leadership with the CNE.
“This involves fundamental risks for our militants, we are talking about handing over the confidential information of militants who belong to a party which has been persecuted throughout history,” stated Oscar Figuera, secretary general of the PCV.
The legislation was approved when anti-Communist sentiment in the country was high and deliberately repressive measures were adopted to crack down on leftist organisation by the Democratic Action government of Romulo Betancourt.
Similarly, the pro-Chavista UPV (Popular Unity Venezuela) has stated that it will not register until significant changes are made to the process.
“We are willing to collect signatures and call on our militants but with better conditions and more time,” explained Carmelo González, UPV secretary general.
Parties which have opted to stand in elections as part of a coalition instead of on an independent party ticket are particularly hard hit by the regulations and are not recognized as having participated in recent elections by the CNE.
“The CNE wants to apply [the rule] that we haven’t participated in the last two elections, when we did as part of the Great Patriotic Pole ticket,” added Carmelo González.
For their part, spokespeople for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which is exempt from the process after gaining well over the 1% threshold in the last national elections, has dismissed accusations that the measures are prohibitive for smaller parties.
“It’s just about collecting 0.5% of voters in half of the states in the country. Obviously if a party doesn’t have the capacity to collect that amount then they can’t consider themselves to be a national party,” stated Hector Rodriguez, lawmaker for the PSUV.
The process was originally meant to begin on February 18, but was later pushed back by the CNE to March 4, following a number of complaints that the timeline was rushed and clashed with national holidays.
CNE Rector Tania D’Amelio has confirmed that the electoral body will not announce the dates for already delayed regional elections due by mid 2017 until the registration process is complete.