Guayaquil, Ecuador, July 1, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has allowed the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition to field candidates for the November 21 regional vote.
On Tuesday, CNE President Pedro Calzadilla announced that 20 new political organizations, eight national and 12 regional, could present their tickets in the upcoming contests, including the MUD coalition. In total, 104 parties are now habilitated to run for governorships, mayoralties, local and regional legislative councils.
Calzadilla said the parties’ validation guarantees "the greatest number and widest participation in the electoral process,” adding that it "contributes to the national dialogue that is currently underway."
For his part, opposition-linked CNE Vicepresident Enrique Márquez called the decision a "step in the right direction,” and it would motivate the population to vote.
The electoral officials did not offer any details about which candidates will run on the MUD lists for the November 21 contests.
In January 2018, MUD was disqualified from participating in elections after the country’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) ruled it was a coalition and not a political party, and some members were engaging in double militancy. The anti-government alliance, which had fielded a unified ticket against Chavista candidates since 2012, was facing an internal crisis after the 2017 regional elections, with a number of organizations withdrawing or expelled citing differences and administrative conflicts.
A number of high-profile opposition leaders welcomed the CNE decision to unblock the MUD electoral credentials. Jesus Chúo Torrealba, a veteran politician who led the MUD for two and a half years, stated that the coalition is currently dissolved, but the renewed electoral credentials could be an opportunity to "rebuild the alliance."
“An alliance that has a consensual voice, as we had in 2015, which allowed us to win” the legislative election with an important majority of votes. “The electoral card is there, but everything else needs to be built" he added.
Along the same lines, right-wing politician Stalin González, who took part in negotiations with the Maduro government in 2019, wrote on Twitter that the MUD electoral card could be used to “regroup and rebuild the alternative for political change."
However, US-backed politician Juan Guaidó did not directly acknowledge the CNE ruling. The former National Assembly (AN) president said the upcoming elections are a "false dilemma," arguing that "Venezuelans want conditions, they want to choose and the results respected." The hardline opposition sectors boycotted presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and 2020, respectively, which delivered resounding victories for the Maduro government.
Contacted by Venezuelanalysis, political analyst Ociel López explained that enabling the MUD ticket is an “element of pressure for the opposition” which exposes the “depressing status” of the anti-government coalition, given its disarray and posterior disintegration after the solid electoral display in 2015.
“If all the major parties and leaders regroup, the MUD could take hold of some governorships, but first we would have to see who is the legal owner of that card, which is a powerful one,” he went on to say, explaining that is down to seasoned politicians such as former two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles to take the initiative.
The MUD electoral validation comes after sectors of Venezuela’s moderate opposition broke ranks with Guaidó's camp and later formed a new coalition, called the Democratic Alliance, that won 20 out of the 277 AN seats in the December 2020 legislative elections. The group gathers over 20 minority center-right and right-wing parties, including former MUD members COPEI and Democratic Action (AD). In May, the coalition announced a joint list for November.
Venezuela’s Constitution mandates that regional and municipal authorities be renewed this year. A new five-person CNE board was appointed in May featuring two opposition members in an effort to boost turnout and guarantee international observers.
Likewise, the Venezuelan government has reiterated calls for opposition participation in November. President Nicolás Maduro announced the termination of so-called “protectorates,” parallel regional and municipal authorities appointed by the central government in some states and municipalities where opposition candidates won in the 2017 elections.
"We will stop with the protectors for states and municipalities so that whoever wins, governs, full stop," Maduro said at an official ceremony on Monday.
The protectorates' declared purpose was to secure the continuation of social missions and programs for the population. The figure was also used twice in 2013.
Former presidential candidate and Lara governor Henri Falcón welcomed the decision to eliminate the protectorates as a “step forward,” claiming the structures violated voters’ rights. The Progressive Advance politician is expected to run for the Lara governorship on November 21 on the Democratic Alliance ticket.
Additionally, Héctor Alejo Rodríguez, member of Venezuela's Communist Party (PCV) central committee, urged the removal of all protectorates before regional elections. Rodríguez stressed that the government-dependent figures need to be held accountable for the resources they administer and barred from tilting the playing field in the upcoming vote.
The November 21 "mega-elections" will be the 26th electoral process since 1998. The country is already gearing up for the contests, with over 250,000 new voters registered. With political outfits weighing candidates, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held the first step of its primary election Sunday as grassroots assemblies, known as Bolívar Chávez Battle Units (UBCh), selected their pre-candidates.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.