Caracas, 20 May, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), handed over a list of approximately 5,000 pre-candidates to the National Electoral Council on Sunday as the party gears up for the June 1 internal elections of candidates for the upcoming state and local elections in November.
Mass meetings of party members were organised all around the country over Monday and Tuesday during which pre-candidates were required to swear an oath to implement the democratic decisions of the party if elected.
Dario Vivas, coordinator of the PSUV’s national Events and Logistics Commission, explained that the next phase in the internal election process involves the diffusion of information about all the pre-candidates for governors and mayors among the party membership.
Marquees or “red points” would be set up in the Bolivar Plazas (town squares) in the major towns and cities across the country where pre-candidates would be able to present their program for government and have direct contact with the members Vivas said.
While candidates are permitted to campaign internally within the party, through organizing debates and forums and the circulation of leaflets explaining their proposals, etc., as well as in the community media, advertising or campaigning in the mainstream television and print media is banned throughout the campaign to “equalize the playing field.”
Aristóbulo Istúriz, a pre-candidate for Mayor of Greater Caracas, currently held by Juan Barreto, has temporarily stood down from his position as host of state owned television channel VTV’s current affairs program, Dando y Dando in compliance with this regulation.
Despite the prohibition on advertising, acting party vice-president Ali Rodriguez Araque assured on Sunday that the full list of pre-candidates would be released to the national media with the aim that the electors know all the options.
In contrast, Vivas argued on Tuesday it was not necessary to release the list of pre-candidates to the media. “I understand it will not be like this…there is no need to publish anything,” he said.
However others have argued that incumbent governors and mayors and political figures with existing high media profiles will benefit over grassroots pre-candidates if the full list is not released publicly as the majority of the PSUV’s 5.7 million members do not regularly attend internal party meetings or events, and are therefore unlikely to be familiar with the grassroots candidates.
Voting through direct secret ballot is open to all members of the PSUV. However, the national executive has estimated that some 2 million will turn out for the CNE monitored elections.
A May 9 national assembly of the PSUV decided that if no single pre-candidate obtains at least 50% plus 1 of the votes, or 15% more votes than the next highest pre-candidate, the national executive body of the PSUV, in consultation with President Hugo Chavez, can select the candidate out of the three who achieved the highest vote.
National Assembly Deputy Bernardo Jiménez from opposition party Podemos criticised the process, saying “with so many candidates it is unlikely that anyone will achieve 50% plus 1, nor will it be possible for anyone to achieve a 15% advantage over another.” Therefore, he argued, it was likely that many of the candidates would in reality be selected from above, rather than from the grassroots as President Chavez has called for.
For instance in the Caracas municipality of Libertador, where former Venezuelan vice-president Jorge Rodriguez is competing, approximately 120 pre-candidates have been nominated.
Other high profile figures in the PSUV who have been nominated as pre candidates include current incumbent Diosdado Cabello for governor of Miranda; Vilma Mora, former head of the Tax Office for governor of Tachira; former Communications Minister, William Lara for governor of Guarico; Adan Chavez (brother of President Chavez) for governor in Chavez’s home state of Barinas; as well as former Minister of Participation and Social Development David Velasquez for governor of Sucre, currently controlled by Podemos.
Freddy Bernal, the current mayor of Libertador, and former Defense Minister Jorge García Carneiro have both been nominated for governor of Vargas, and National Assembly Deputy Carlos Escarrá will face Finance Minister Rafael Isea, in Aragua.
Former finance minister Rodrigo Cabezas, will battle it out with popular the mayor of Maracaibo, Giancarlo Di Martino, among others, for governor of the opposition controlled state of Zulia and William Izarra, organizer of the Centers for Ideological Formation (CFIs) is challenging incumbent Tarek William Saab for governor of Anzoátegui.
Mario Silva, host of VTV’s popular political satire show, The Razorblade, has also been nominated for governor of Carabobo, after the current governor of Carabobo, Acosta Carles, who is heavily questioned by grassroots Chavez supporters, was asked not to stand. National Assembly Deputy Francisco Ameliach has also been nominated for governor of Carabobo.
In the state of Bolivar the FSBT (Bolivarian Socialist Workers Force) union current announced today that they will support the pre-candidacy of current governor Francisco Rangel Gómez, despite Rangel Gómez being widely discredited in March for ordering the National Guard to smash up a protest of striking steel workers from the SIDOR plant which has since been nationalized.
Meanwhile, many SIDOR workers are supporting the pre-candidacy of Elio Sayaga, for mayor of Caroní. Sayaga is a worker from the ALCASA aluminium plant and a key campaigner for the nationalization of SIDOR and advocate of workers’ control who has been elected to the Transition Commission to oversee the full nationalization of the company.
Other popular grassroots pre-candidates include Gonzalo Gómez, a long time revolutionary socialist and PSUV delegate from the working-class neighborhood of Catia, as mayor of Libertador and Julio Chavez, current mayor of Carora, for governor of Lara.