‘Mega-election’ Campaign Kicks Off in Venezuela

The European Union has also deployed its observer team which will be joined by others including the Carter Center and CEELA closer to the day.

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United Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate for governor of Miranda state Héctor Rodríguez kickstarted his campaign for re-election on Thursday. (EFE)
United Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate for governor of Miranda state Héctor Rodríguez kickstarted his campaign for re-election on Thursday. (EFE)
By Paul Dobson
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Mérida, November 1, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Candidates for Venezuela’s upcoming “mega-election” began campaigning last Thursday.

The more than 70,000 registered contenders from 111 political parties are due to contest 3,082 posts including 23 state governors, 335 mayors, 253 regional legislators and 2,471 local councilors on November 21.

The official start of the campaign saw rallies, marches, convoys and protests held across the country, as well as a flurry of activity on social media. Nearly 21.2 million voters are eligible to participate later this month in the last scheduled ballot before the 2024 presidential race.

Initial campaign promises centered around improving local infrastructure as well as healthcare, education, transport services, and spurring economic improvement. Amidst a wide-reaching US blockade, Venezuela is toiling from its seventh consecutive recessionary year, leading to severely strained basic services including fuel distribution, telecommunications and the electrical grid.

Incumbent United Socialist Party (PSUV) governor of Zulia state Omar Prieto started his reelection efforts in the oil-rich San Francisco city, telling supporters that the campaign will be “a battle against evil (…) and for prosperity and the development of our state.”

In the populous Miranda state, fellow PSUV incumbent Héctor Rodríguez highlighted the success of his current mandate as he got his reelection bid underway. “We were able to lower kidnappings by 90%, reactivate the economy and vaccinate the majority of the population,” he claimed. Rodriguez also promised to “improve public services, keep the peace, strengthen social programs and support local businesses,” should he be victorious.

Equally, Rafael Lacava, incumbent PSUV governor of the industrial Carabobo state, kicked off his campaign for re-election by donating 40 personalized taxis to residents in Puerto Cabello. He vowed to strengthen tourist infrastructure in the coastal town. In western Mérida state, local PSUV leader and governor candidate Jehyson Guzmán kicked off his efforts by holding a large-scale motorbike convoy, drawing criticism given the ongoing and acute fuel shortages in the region.

The ruling PSUV once again faces a leftwing challenge from the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR) which is running candidates on the Communist Party of Venezuela’s (PCV) ticket.

Trade unionist and APR candidate for Carabobo state governor Ricardo Adrian began campaigning alongside PCV Lawmaker Oscar Figuera by promising “an honest mandate in favor of the working people.”

For his part, APR candidate for Caracas’ Libertador municipality, Rafael Uzcátegui, likewise highlighted the need for a more “transparent” administration and promised to fight against “the newly rich who aspire to form part of the bourgeoisie.”

Rightwing forces also hit the campaign trail, with the US-backed Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) returning to the ballot after four years of election boycotts.

Speaking from Caracas, MUD candidate for Libertador municipality Tomás Guanipa looked to rally discontent against the Venezuelan government by telling supporters that “in order to defeat [Nicolás] Maduro we need to have massive participation.”

Similarly, former Zulia state governor and 2006 presidential candidate Manuel Rosales promised “prosperity” and to “put the brakes on the destruction” of the PSUV-controlled governorship by investing in classrooms, hospitals and reorganizing the fuel distribution system amidst ongoing shortages.

For its part, the center-right Democratic Alliance bloc, which brings together a range of different electoral tickets, is looking to improve on a poor showing in the December 2020 parliamentary elections. Former presidential candidate and evangelical preacher Javier Bertucci, who is running for Carabobo governor, told supporters that “We are a country of family, of traditions, of values, and respect (…) This crisis will not beat us.”

Another 2018 presidential candidate, Henri Falcón, Democratic Alliance candidate for Lara state governor, launched his campaign in the state capital of Barquisimeto. He later used his Twitter account to denounce the reported “destruction” of his campaigning posters by government supporters.

EU international mission arrives

The campaign launch coincided with the arrival of 44 electoral observers from the European Union. With 30 more due to arrive, the delegation is the first sent by Brussels since 2006.

Portuguese mission chief Isabel Santos told reporters that the high-profile team has already been deployed to 22 of Venezuela’s 23 regions. She went on to highlight the “independent” nature of the delegation, promising to “listen to everyone.” The delegation was previously mired in controversy following comments by EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell blasted as “interventionist” by Caracas.

The EU team will be joined on November 21 by a host of other multilateral organizations, electoral specialists and prominent journalists, academics and politicians, including the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts (CEELA).

Last Wednesday, the prestigious Carter Center also announced that it will be sending a six-member team for the regional and local elections in what constitutes the amplest international electoral accompaniment in Venezuela for many years. Both the Carter Center and EU have said that they will be publishing preliminary findings two days after the ballot, with full reports due in January.