Caracas, Venezuela, June 7, 2006—Three major Venezuelan potentialopposition candidates made an agreement for “National Unity” earlier this week,in which they declared that only one of them will run against incumbentPresident Hugo Chavez in the upcoming December 3rd presidentialelections.
The candidates also agreed to a governability plan which would be put into effect once achieving the presidency, regardless of which candidate were inpower. They declared that the decisionas to who will run against Chavez would be made according to their position inthe polls, although primaries “if necessary, would take place between July 30and August 6.”
The agreement was made between candidates Julio Borges (Primero Justicia), Teodoro Petkoff(independent), and Manuel Rosales (UnNuevo Tiempo), three of the most popular opposition leaders. Nevertheless, in opinion polls held inJanuary and February, Chavez appears to have more than a consistent 2 to 1 leadagainst any of the potential candidates.
As of a few months ago, according to the polling agency, IVAD, Teodoro Petkoff, who is anex-guerrilla, founder of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party and thecurrent editor of the Venezuelan daily, TalCual, had 12.7% support against Chavez 67%. According to the agency, Consultores 21, Rosales, the currentgovernor of the state of Zulia, held 30.2% to Chavez’ 56.5%.
“The principal objective of governability will be to solidify ourcommitment to reducing poverty in the next 6 years, as well as looking towards2015, in agreement with the objectives the Millennium Development goalspresented by the Organization of the United Nations,” said Petkoff, readingpart of their agreement.
“In this agreement there will be focus of urgent attention to thepromotion of employment, the efficient battle against insecurity, the quickconstruction of homes, the improvement of medical attention, the improvement ofthe quality of education and the battle against corruption, among otherthings,” he continued.
The candidates also agreed to make a joint decision on the “absolutelyminimum electoral conditions necessary in order to participate in thePresidential elections.”
According to Petkoff, those minimum conditions are “the elimination ofthe finger-print machine and the electronic notebooks; the opening of theballot boxes and scrutiny of the votes; a professional and trustworthy audit ofthe Electoral Registry; and a swift update of that registry,”
The Venezuelan daily, El Universal,reported that the candidates would soon be forming a commission in order tofacilitate the creation of a government of National Unity and “another teamthat would have the job of organizing the primary elections- if necessary.”
The commission would be organized between July 30 and August 6 and would“initially integrate six members, three of whom represent every one of thecandidates; while the three remaining members would be representatives of theNGOs that posses understanding and knowledge in the matter. The NGOs whose representatives have alreadyagreed to participate and who make up part of the commission are Sumate, ElGrupo La Colina, and Queremos Elegir.”
Sumate, the partially US funded organization that led the signaturedrive for the 2004 referendum against Chavez, has already been planning primaryelections for opposition candidates, even though the Venezuelan NationalElectoral Council (CNE) has rejected their participation in any primaryprocess. On Monday, Sumate released anofficial response to the agreement in which they believe that the primaryshould be open to all the pre-candidates.
“As a citizen organization promoting the process of participation, weinform the country that we have met with all of the pre-candidates on variousoccasions, always under the premise of citizen participation and equality ofelectoral conditions. It is for thisthat, with relation to the Primary Committee proposed by the three candidatestoday in the press conference, we reiterate what we have proposed to them inprevious meetings: All of thepre-candidates should be represented in said committee,” read the Sumatestatement.
According to the Venezuelan daily, DiarioVea, leaders of various opposition groups, “Bandera Roja”, “Bravo Pueblo” y“Un Solo Pueblo” have “refused to support the decision by Borges, Petkoff andRosales, and said that they are ‘anti-unity’, and some went so far as to saythey are ‘exclusive and elitist.’”
The President of the former governing party, Accion Democratico, Víctor Bolivar, also came out against theagreement between the three pre-candidates, accusing them of “not speakingclearly to the country.”
“A government program that they are not going to be able to implement isworth nothing, because there won’t be the electoral conditions in order to beatChavez. Speaking about a singleopposition candidate is worth nothing if this candidate is chosen against whatthe great majority of Venezuelans are asking for, which is the fulfillment ofthe electoral conditions,” said Bolivar.
The National Electoral Council (CNE), which was newly appointed bymembers of the National Assembly in late April, has conceded to many of theopposition’s electoral demands, but many still remain.