Caracas , Venezuela , August 14, 2006 —Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez presented himself at the National Electoral Council (CNE) Saturday to register his candidacy for the December 3 presidential election.
He was nominated in all by 25 different political organisations which, besides his own, Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), included coalition partner Patria Para Todos (Fatherland for All), Podemos (We Can – For Social Democracy), the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), and several smaller parties, such as the Middle Class Revolutionaries and the Movement for Revolutionary Action (Tupamaros).
After registering, Chávez expressed his confidence in the Venezuelan electoral system and, regarding the campaign, said that it, “must be above all a debate about ideas, an opportunity to elevate the level of debate and the political culture.”
He also used the opportunity to guarantee that, in accordance with the norms of publicity and propaganda constituted by the CNE, he would not use official channels such as the weekly presidential TV program Aló Presidente to campaign for his re-election.
Waiting for Chávez outside of the headquarters of the CNE in Caracas Square was a sea of red: thousands of followers in trademark Chavista red t-shirts and caps, the slogans inscribed on them including their party loyalties and from which part of the country they had come. They had come from all corners of the republic to support Chavez and danced to loud music pumping out of speakers while they awaited his appearance.
After registering, Chavez left the CNE and, along with vice-President José Vicente Rangel and the leaders of the nominating parties, headed for the stage to address the crowds of supporters. Exploding fireworks signalled to the masses that he’d arrived.
Addressing the crowds, Rangel said that no alternative candidate would come any where near Chávez in the election, “I don’t say it as an official but as a citizen, someone who knows the history of the country and is in contact with ‘the street.’”
Chávez, who spoke for just over an hour, said that the electoral campaign would step up a gear the moment he had registered, boasting that the “Bolivarian Hurricane” was about to be unleashed. He has set a target for himself of 10 million votes to assure a convincing victory. He also talked of the Comando de Campa ñ a (Campaign Commando) that will organise nationally, regionally, and locally, setting up campaign units to fight in all thirty one constituencies for the “10 million votes.”
“The Bolivarian hurricane will become a million hurricanes in all corners of the country, carrying forward the Bolivarian project and defending the revolution,” he said.
Chávez is the third person to register his candidacy at the CNE, with comedian Benjamin Rausseo and Zulia State Governor Manuel Rosales being the other two candidates. Of those two Chávez was critical, even dimissive, saying, “They are desperate, they offer villas and castles to deceive the people, which isn’t going to happen this time because now the people are conscious so nobody can deceive them …These candidates are from the elites and are counter-revolutionaries and pawns of the United States.”
In the polls Chávez is the clear front runner scoring consistently between 50% – 70%. This has led to fears that Rosales, the “main” opposition candidate, may withdraw in an attempt to delegitimize the election.
Opposition spokespeople have expressed their dislike of the fingerprint scanning machines that were formally accepted by the CNE last Friday, fearing these violate the secrecy and anonymity of each voter. The CNE and observers of past elections, though, guarantee that there is no connection between the fingerprint scanners, which are supposed to prevent double voting, and the voting machines. Nonetheless, the opposition might still use the scanners as an argument to withdraw from the race.