Venezuelan Regional Elections Set for November

The President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay
Lucena, announced on Wednesday that the regional elections for mayors
and governors would take place in the third week of November and called
on all political parties to participate responsibly.

By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena (ABN)
Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena (ABN)
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Caracas, January 31, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The President of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced on Wednesday that the regional elections for mayors and governors would take place in the third week of November and called on all political parties to participate responsibly.

“It is necessary that politicians act responsibly to their electors and that the media provides balanced and just information,” she declared.

Opposition political groups and private media have often accused the CNE of perpetuating electoral fraud but have never provided any conclusive evidence. However all major electoral contests, such as the recall referendum against Chavez’s presidency in 2004 and the Presidential elections in 2006 have been ratified by international observers, including the Carter Center, the Organization of American States and the European Union as being free and fair.

In 2005 opposition parties abstained from the National Assembly elections altogether, alleging the process was rigged and ceded full control of the parliament to pro-Chavez legislators.

Despite the victory of the ‘No’ vote against President Chavez’s proposed constitutional reforms, by a razor thin margin in the December 2 referendum last year, opposition groups have continued to cry fraud, claiming that in reality the ‘No’ vote won by a much greater margin. However, CNE rector Vincent Diaz, himself an open opponent of the reforms, said at the time that the results of the referendum dispelled the myth that the CNE was corrupt.

Lucena also condemned the campaign against the CNE, saying, “There are certain individuals who believe that attacking the arbitrator will give them political benefits,” and added, “We need to break definitively with this particular form of doing politics.”

This does not impede criticism Lucena explained; rather, it requires all political groups and parties to respect the democratic process and the will of the people.

The main focus of the CNE for 2008 would be to promote the inclusion of all eligible Venezuelan citizens in the electoral registry and to prepare the logistics of the regional elections, she added.

In the 2004 regional elections, in which many voters appeared to make their decision based on whether candidates were for or against President Hugo Chavez, pro-Chavez candidates won a crushing 20 out of 22 governorships up for election. Pro-Chavez candidates also won an overwhelming majority of mayoral offices throughout the country. However since then, governors Ramon Martinez (Sucre) and Didalco Bolivar (Aragua), both from the political party Podemos, have shifted to the opposition.

If the voting pattern of the referendum were repeated in the regional elections, pro-Chavez candidates would retain only 15 out of 23 of governorships.

In order to capitalize on Chavez’s referendum defeat, eight opposition parties have also signed a draft “unity pact” with the aim of running a single united opposition candidate for each position.

During his weekly TV and radio program, Alo Presidente last Sunday, Chavez referred to the unity pact signed by the opposition, saying their objective is to rewrite the Pact of Punto Fijo - a power sharing deal whereby two parties, Democratic Action (AD) and the Christian Democratic Party (COPEI) ruled Venezuela for 40 years.

“Some of these leaders have appointed themselves as presidents of these parties forever, without being elected by anyone. The majority are media parties and behind them is the power of United States imperialism.”

In contrast, Chavez said the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela was being founded from below and that they would create a Patriotic Alliance to unite the parties of the revolution, such as the Communist Party of Venezuela and Homeland for All, as well as the social movements to campaign for the elections.

Chavez also demanded that a number of ‘Chavista’ officials who had been promoting themselves prematurely as PSUV candidates for the upcoming regional elections, withdraw their campaign immediately, saying that if they don’t they should be expelled from the party. He insisted that all PSUV candidates for the elections should be democratically elected by the grassroots of the party.

The PSUV founding congress, scheduled to conclude on March 9, will determine the method for selecting candidates. Some participants have suggested running primaries.