2.5 Million Elect Venezuelan Socialist Party Candidates

Yesterday 2,589,852 members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) went to the booths to elect their candidates for the National Assembly elections to be held on 26 September.

Voters revise lists before voting in PSUV primary elections (Manuel Sarda)

Mérida, May 3rd 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Yesterday 2,589,852 members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) went to the booths to elect their candidates for the National Assembly elections to be held on 26 September.

From 8am, or even earlier in some cases, registered members voted at 3,820 booths, selecting from a total of 3,527 nominations, though only voting for candidates that corresponded to their regional area. Any registered member could nominate themselves, for no charge.

The elections were managed by the National Electoral Council (CNE), an independent national electoral body. According to Justice Minister Tarek El-Aissami, the voting was quick, there were no irregular incidents, and all was done with in “complete normality.”

As President Hugo Chavez cast his vote, he said, “Electing candidates like this, we’re guaranteeing a much deeper connection between the National Assembly and the bases.”

Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, said, “This is a demonstration of what we’ll see on 26 September: A huge popular victory that strengthens the revolution and the leadership of President Hugo Chavez.”

And Farik Fraija, a political scientist, told ABN, “Never before in Latin American has such participation and commitment in the internal process of modern political parties been seen.”

Of the final 110 elected candidates, ten are youth, according to ABN, and 22 are women, judging by a count of feminine first names. Also, according to Fraija, 30% of the candidates are currently legislators who are seeking re-election.

Many of the elected candidates also currently have positions working for mayors or governors or in ministries, or are members of state political bureaus of the PSUV, while others do not hold any sort of political position.

Some of the more well known elected candidates include Aristóbulo Istúriz, vice president of the north east region of the PSUV and previously minister of education and sports; Freddy Bernal, ex mayor of Caracas; PSUV youth leader, Robert Serra; and Dario Vivas, a National Assembly legislator often seen in the press.

Julio Chavez, a mayor renowned for promoting and helping to build a participatory Municipal Constituent Assembly, was also elected, while Mario Silva, the well known analytical journalist and host of the TV show La Hojilla (The Razorblade) was not. Marleny Contreras, wife of minister Diosdado Cabello was also elected to be a candidate.

In Mérida state, all four nominees elected as candidates have previously held positions in the state or city mayor government, and have previously run in regional and local elections. One candidate is head of the Merida legislative council,  another lost PSUV primaries to run for governor, and a third lost PSUV primaries to run for mayor. All four will have to abandon political positions in order to campaign for their place in the National Assembly.

Opposition media response to the elections focused on what they considered a low turn out. The daily newspaper, El Nacional’s headline read, “PSUV elected candidates with an abstention of 62%.”

In response, William Lara, a national leader of the PSUV, said, “This is an internal election.. to make comparisons with presidential elections is really just lies.”

Opposition parties held unmonitored primary elections for 15 out of a total of 67 districts last week, with a turnout of less than 10%, according to opposition-aligned news media. Party leadership selected the rest of the opposition candidates.  

The national assembly has 167 legislators whose 5 year terms expire on 5 January 2011. The PSUV elected candidates for 110 of these spots on Sunday.