Caracas, June 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) announced its full list of candidates Wednesday, for the upcoming state and local elections on November 23, based on the outcome of internal elections on June 1 in which some 2.5 million members of the party went to the polls to choose candidates for 22 governors and 328 mayors.
Under the regulations adopted by a national assembly of PSUV delegates, those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes, or 15 percent more votes than the next highest pre-candidate, were automatically nominated as party candidates. In those cases where none of the pre-candidates met the requirements, the national leadership selected the candidate out of the top three pre-candidates. In 8 states and 134 municipalities, none of the pre-candidates met the requirement for automatic nomination.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores, speaking on behalf of the PSUV national leadership, announced those candidates selected for the contested states and municipalities.
In the state of Apure, Jesús Alberto Aguilarte Gámez was selected; in Cojedes: Teodoro Venancio Bolívar Caballer; in Guárico: Willian Rafael Lara; Nueva Esparta: William Ramón Fariñas; Sucre: Enrique José Maestre; Táchira: Leonardo Alí Salcedo Ramírez; Trujillo: Hugo César Cabezas Bracamonte; and for Yaracuy: Julio César León Heredia.
The full results of the PSUV’s internal elections for governors and mayors can be found on the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) website, www.cne.gob.ve.
While the internal party nomination process, which was monitored by 62 international observers, in large part occurred in a climate of normality, polling was marred in some instances by reports of some pre-candidates wielding undue influence in order to determine the outcome of the vote.
For instance, a dispute has flared up in Guarico, where the current governor Eduardo Manuitt, has rejected the selection of William Lara as the gubernatorial candidate, arguing “it is necessary to look for a candidate of consensus…evidently William Lara does not represent this.”
Lara, who obtained 43.01% of the vote, narrowly beat Lenny Manuitt, daughter of the governor and deputy in the legislative council in that state, who obtained 40.01%, according to the CNE, indicating a margin of only 2,484 votes between them.
Eduardo Manuitt, who is under investigation for assaulting a mayor, claims that he was not allowed place observers in the polling booths. However, an anonymous PSUV member told venezuelanalysis.com that the Manuitts had carried out a “dirty campaign”, including the distribution of free household appliances, in an effort to influence the vote.
It was also reported in January this year that Manuitt ordered local police to physically break up a PSUV meeting during which the majority of members were alleged to have supported Lara’s candidacy for governor.
Meanwhile, in the state of Falcón, grassroots PSUV activists have alleged that intimidation and vote buying was used in the campaign of candidate-elect Estela Mariña Montilla, wife of the current governor Willam Montilla, who openly supported the opposition military coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
According to a June 4 article in Venezuelan daily El Nacional, PSUV activists in the state of Bolivar, where incumbent governor Francisco Rangel Gomez (associated with the right-wing of “Chavismo”), won the party pre-selection, have also made allegations of fraud, including the theft of 1,300 ballots.
Despite these problems, Luis Mora, a PSUV member in Sucre municipality in the state of Miranda, argued that the elections on June 1 were an “exercise in participatory democracy.”
He pointed out that the PSUV was the only political party in Venezuela to meet the constitutional requirement to hold internal elections for candidacies and national leadership positions and called on the opposition parties to follow the example of the PSUV.
Thus far, all opposition parties have refused to hold internal elections.
The opposition has also criticised the PSUV internal elections process arguing that public institutions such as the CNE and state television station VTV were utilised.
William Lara, head of the PSUV’s electoral commission, countered that the party had been billed 17 million bolivars by the CNE for facilitating the elections and that it is paying it back in instalments.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, reiterated the constitutional requirement to hold elections and assured that the national electoral body is willing to facilitate internal elections for all political parties.
Communications and Information Minister Andrés Izarra also responded, saying all political parties could make use of the state media within the framework of the constitution. VTV would be willing to broadcast internal debates and elections of opposition parties he assured.
However, Izarra considered it unlikely that the opposition parties would take up the offer “because they don’t have the strength or support to carry out a democratic election like this.”
Despite this assertion, Izarra repeated the call for the opposition to follow the example of the PSUV and allow their members to participate. “We have seen that the members of Democratic Action are calling for participation…Members of Democratic Action: liberate yourselves from the yoke of Henry Ramos Allup! [Unelected leader of AD] Liberate yourselves! Participate! Hold primaries! Elect your nacional leadership!” he said.