Venezuelan Leftist Parties Discuss Cooperation, Opposition Plans National Assembly Elections Intervention

Venezuela’s most prominent leftist parties renewed inter-party dialogue this week, while the largest coalition of opposition parties announced it is preparing a list of candidates for the National Assembly elections that are scheduled to take place next September.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

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President Hugo Chavez (right) and PCV General Secretary Oscar Figuera (PCV)
President Hugo Chavez (right) and PCV General Secretary Oscar Figuera (PCV)
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Mérida, November 19th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- Venezuela’s most prominent leftist parties renewed inter-party dialogue this week, while the largest coalition of opposition parties announced it is preparing a list of candidates for the National Assembly elections that are scheduled to take place next September.

On Sunday, President Hugo Chavez called on the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), of which he is president, to hold debates and discussions with the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and Patria Para Todos (PPT).

The move came in the run up to the international conference of leftist parties that the PSUV is hosting in Caracas on Thursday and Friday, as well as the PSUV congress that will take place over the next several weekends and is expected to bring momentous debates over the party’s character and direction.

Both the PCV and PPT support Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution he leads, but are not part of the PSUV. Chavez’s strongest supporters formed the PSUV in 2007 with the goal of consolidating all pro-revolution parties, and it is now by far Venezuela’s largest single political party.

In a press conference on Tuesday, PCV General Secretary Oscar Figuera welcomed Chavez’s invitation to dialogue. He said it is “of greatest strategic importance” that the leftist parties “advance toward the construction of a space for collective leadership.”

Figuera said the inter-party discussions must reach beyond electoral matters to confront broader challenges to the Bolivarian revolution. He alluded to Colombia’s recent military pact with the United States, which will allow the U.S. military to operate with diplomatic immunity in Colombia and expand intelligence and military operations across South America.

“There is a much more complex context that demands this unity among all popular revolutionary forces of Venezuela: It is the reactionary counter-offensive of imperialism against the peoples and progressive governments on this continent,” said Figuera.

The PCV has consistently coincided with Chavez’s anti-imperialism, but criticized many PSUV officials for devoting too much time to party activity and neglecting workers’ rights among other issues.

Similarly, PPT spokesperson Andrea Tavares said, “We want to discuss fundamental issues that will contribute to the consolidation of the revolutionary process,” such as “strategies for the defense of the homeland in the context of war.”

Tavares did not indicate whether the PPT will consider endorsing PSUV candidates for next year’s National Assembly elections. “We demonstrated in the previous elections that participating as a separate party does not convert us into an element of the counter-revolutionary opposition,” said Tavares.

When the PCV and PPT ran alternative candidates to those of the PSUV in the 2008 state and local elections, Chavez called the parties “traitors,” “deserters,” “disloyal,” and “counter-revolutionary,” and threatened to “sweep them off the map.”

Despite the two parties’ maintenance of independent candidacies, the PSUV still won control of 17 out of 22 state governorships and more than 80% of the nation’s mayoralties.

Opposition

Also on Tuesday, a coalition of Venezuela’s principal opposition parties announced that by the end of the first quarter of 2010 it will present a list of candidates who will contest Venezuela’s more than 165 National Assembly seats next September.

The coalition is known as the “Democratic Unity Roundtable” and includes Democratic Action (Acción Democrática), the Christian democratic party COPEI, Brave People's Alliance (Alianza Bravo Pueblo), A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo), Justice First (Primero Justicia), the social democratic party PODEMOS, and several others.

Jorge Borges, the coordinator of the Justice First party, said the parties must first solve the “puzzle” of how the coalition will choose its candidates. Borges said the coalition will hold primary elections in some districts, and decide by “consensus” in other districts, implying that the party leaders will decide.

So far, the PSUV is the only party in Venezuela to have chosen its party leaders and candidates through national elections.

According to the most recent national public opinion poll conducted by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD), the opposition appears to have a good chance of winning a block of seats in the National Assembly next September.

33.5% of respondents to the poll said they identify with the PSUV, while 25% identify with the principal opposition parties, and 41% identify with neither political camp. 

When asked which candidates for the National Assembly will better represent the interests of the country, 36.6% responded that the Chavez backed candidates will, 37.2% responded that opposition candidates will, and 26.2% said they were unsure or did not respond.

When asked who they will vote for in next year’s elections, 32.4% responded that they will vote for Chavista candidates, 24.8% said they will vote for opposition candidates, 31.2% said they will vote for independent candidates, and 11.6% said they were not sure or did not respond.

In addition, 56.7% of respondents said it would be “convenient for the country” if the opposition were to gain an “important presence” in the legislature, while 35.2% said it would be best for the Chavez supporters to maintain their majority.

Meanwhile, 62% of respondents evaluated Chavez’s job performance as president to be either “somewhat good,” “good,” or “excellent.”

This situation contrasts sharply to the run-up to the 2005 National Assembly elections, which most opposition parties boycotted due to their evident lack of electoral support. At that time, Chavez and his supporters were still emboldened by the opposition-led military coup and management-led oil industry shutdown which failed to oust Chavez in 2002 and 2003. 

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