Liverpool, July 18th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Candidates for the Venezuelan presidential elections signed an agreement drafted by the National Electoral Committee (CNE) on Tuesday, obliging candidates to “respect the laws which regulate the electoral process” and to “recognise the results” announced by the CNE in October. The agreement also stipulates that candidates must “compete within a climate of respect” throughout their respective electoral campaigns.
The creation of the agreement was announced last Thursday by the President of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, who stated that the electoral monitoring body had been asked by a number of political organisations to draft the document. The document was then signed by six out of the seven presidential candidates in the presence of CNE officials on Tuesday, with Justice First representative, Juan Carlos Caldera, signing on behalf of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who had previously said that he would not sign. One candidate, Orlando Chirinos, also refused to sign the agreement.
“The agreement is firstly a reiteration of what adhering to the Constitution and national law should be, and also a commitment to recognising the results that the CNE will announce on 7 October [voting day]...thirdly, it means carrying out this process peacefully, both before and after the results,” said Socorro Hernandez, Chancellor of the CNE.
According to Hernandez the agreement is “pro-democracy” and a responsible way of ensuring the realization of free and fair elections in October. She also added that the document had received as much input “from the PSUV [the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez] as from the opposition”.
Accepting the results
The agreement comes after months of speculation over whether the opposition plans to dispute October’s election result, with current polls giving incumbent president Hugo Chavez a 22% lead over his opponent, Henrique Capriles, for the conservative MUD coalition (Roundtable of Democratic Unity).
Whilst Chavez has frequently stated that he would honour the October election results, the opposition had yet to make a statement confirming that they would do the same.
Despite having signed the document on Tuesday, opposition representatives have strongly criticised the agreement for not including a clause which they proposed earlier this month to regulate the use of state media.
In the proposal, entitled the “Balance and Electoral Justice Agreement,” the MUD called on Chavez not to “promote himself” in state television or radio appearances until after voting on 7 October.
Commenting on the agreement on Wednesday, Capriles stated that the document appeared to have been “written by the other candidate” (Hugo Chavez) and charged the CNE with “bias”. The presidential candidate also said that the pledge would not be adhered to by the current government.
“This government’s word doesn’t mean a thing, nor the signature of the government, it means nothing!...I know why he (Chavez) is abusing (his power,) because he knows that on the 7th of October, his time will be over!” said Capriles.
The CNE has strongly denied the accusations of favouritism, stating that the restriction of state media does not fall within its jurisdiction and that the body cannot prohibit the government from using the media to give details of its administration to the population.
“The issue of state television channels is not an issue which is included in the National Electoral Committee’s regulations, even though they (the opposition) insist and keep insisting, it really is an issue outside of the CNE’s functions... what we can do is emphasise that, if there is a government event, that there is no political propaganda, that there is no encouraging people to vote (in a particular way),... that is the CNE’s area” she confirmed.
Signing the agreement on Tuesday, President Hugo Chavez said that the electoral body should be respected by the opposition, as well as stating that the government would “not respond to provocative remarks”.
The government has always maintained that it will abide by CNE decisions and decided to withdraw one of its social missions called “Mission Heart” earlier this month on the body’s recommendation, due to the possibility that the mission could be confused with the PSUV’s electoral campaign, “Heart of my Homeland”.
During an interview on state television channel VTV on Tuesday, CNE Chancellor Hernandez suggested that the CNE was “constantly” being attacked by the opposition.
“There are defamatory remarks, epithets, labels which I think are unfair, I don’t think we deserve it... because we have earned people’s trust. I think it is in the interests of all (political) organizations that this trust is maintained and advanced, precisely because this body (the CNE) guarantees the peace,” stated Hernandez.
The CNE is one of the five branches which make up the Venezuelan government and its five officials are nominated by the electorate and then elected in the country’s National Assembly. The organisation is in charge of monitoring all electoral contests in the country, as well as political propaganda and the financing of political campaigns.