Another Key Venezuelan Opposition Party Drops Out of Election

Despite internal divisions, Venezuelan Opposition party Justice First decides to drop out of the elections after three other key parties do. The decision nearly split the party, which says that those members that want to run, may still do so.

Caracas, Venezuela, December 1, 2005 – The Justice First Party decided late last night not to participate in Sunday’s elections. Justice First’s General Secretary, Gerardo Blyde said , “We’ve been obliged to recognize the reality of the process that will take place on December 4 and have taken the decision that we cannot participate.”

Justice First, or Primero Justicia as it is known in Spanish, is the fourth key Venezuelan opposition party to drop out of this Sunday’s elections for the Venezuelan National Assembly. This decision comes after Justice First said yesterday they would take part. The others were Democratic Action, Copei and Project Venezuela.

Although Justice First is not participating, some individual candidates said they will still stand. These include Ybeyise Pacheco, Lazaro Forero and Ivan Simonovis, whose candidacies are largely symbolic, as they face criminal charges for the April 2002 coup attempt. Justice First’s decision came after a 10 hour debate by its executive committee yesterday. The party was very divided over the decision.

Before the decision was taken yesterday, representatives for and against Justice First participating explained their positions. Alexis Cedejo was supposed to stand as a Justice First candidate in the pro-government stronghold of 23 de Enero district in Caracas. Cedejo said he did not want to take part.

Cedejo said most Justice First people did not want to participate because they did not think the voting machines were reliable. They also did not trust the Electoral Commission or CNE to be fair. The Justice First candidate said, “We don’t want what happened with the recall referendum, which was clearly against Chavez but the CNE said it wasn’t.”

Cedejo said there were still worries about the voting machines being used despite the Organization of American States observers saying they were safe and reliable. Cedejo said the observers, “don’t have to live in this country. They make their statements and have their own agenda and then they go away.”

Flavia Martineau, City Councilor for the Sucre Municipality wanted to take part. Martineau said some Justice First people wanted to fight the election because they, “fundamentally believe in the right to vote.” The City Councilor also said, “We need to fight the civil struggle at all different levels.”

Some people felt the circumstances for an election were not good for Justice First. Martineau said they had to know conditions will never be perfect for the party. Martineau also said, “Will electoral conditions improve if we are not in the national assembly?”

Martineau said a big fear was that if Justice First did not participate then the pro-government parties would win the two thirds majority they need to pass constitutional amendments. The City Councilor said they would be able to claim the process was legitimate because, “there are still other opposition parties taking part.”

Jorge Rodriguez, President of the CNE said that candidates who do not want to participate must say so before midnight on December 3. Rodriguez said as of 2:51 pm yesterday afternoon, only seven candidates had told the CNE they were stepping down.

Rodriguez also said that elections will not be postponed. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said the opposition parties’ claims of fraud are not true. Chavez has said they are not taking part because they know they do not have popular support and will lose a fair election.