Mérida, 3rd August 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The National Electoral Council (CNE) has announced an investigation into cases of state and private media infringement of election rules during Venezuela’s presidential election campaign, while also calling upon opposition candidate Henrique Capriles to stop using national symbols in violation of electoral law.
In a press conference yesterday, CNE vice-president Sandra Oblitas confirmed that after one month, the presidential election campaign is proceeding in an environment of normality and without major incidents.
Nevertheless, the CNE will open an administrative investigation into two state and two private media outlets suspected of infringing electoral rules in favour of one of the candidates.
State television channel VTV is to be investigated for “campaigning” in favour of incumbent President Hugo Chavez, while the government’s newspaper, Correo del Orinoco, is accused of publishing an image of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles without his permission.
Meanwhile private national newspaper Ultimas Noticias and television channel Televen have been implicated in featuring election advertising from Capriles’ campaign over permitted limits.
Oblitas specified that in the case of Ultimas Noticias and Televen, the members of Capriles’ campaign in charge of election publicity will be investigated, as they are considered the ones responsible for scheduling election advertisements.
The four cases will be reviewed by a commission, with violations carrying a penalty of up to US $146,500 (630,000BsF) under electoral law.
Oblitas said that the CNE would act “firmly” during the campaign “to guarantee Venezuelans an orderly, clean and transparent [electoral] process”.
The CNE official also issued a call to opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who is standing for the conservative Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition, to abide by electoral laws prohibiting the use of national symbols to promote election campaigns.
The denouncement was made in reference to the cap that Capriles habitually wears at campaign events, which uses the colours and symbols of Venezuela’s national flag. This is the second occasion in which the CNE has requested Capriles observe the rule.
Oblitas said that in ignoring the first CNE request, Capriles was acting “in open disregard and inobservance” of the CNE. She continued, “We draw the attention of the country, thus, to what an attitude of this nature could be in search of…are they [members of Capriles’ campaign] seeking to make themselves victims of a possible sanction by the CNE?”
The electoral official also confirmed that Hugo Chavez’s campaign had already abided by similar CNE requests regarding Chavez’s dress and withdrawing aspects of campaign material allusive to national or government symbols.
Armando Briquet, Capriles’ campaign head, said yesterday that Capriles wouldn’t abide by the CNE’s demand. “He won’t take it [the cap] off,” he confirmed.
He argued that while rules exist against the use of national symbols in election publicity, “in these [campaign] acts, you can’t ban someone from using a cap to protect themselves from the sun”.
Communicating via social media Facebook, Capriles questioned the neutrality of the CNE, saying that his cap is “the government’s issue”. “We’re not violating a single electoral rule, and we’re going to continue constructing this future path with all Venezuelans,” he declared.
Another CNE official, Socorro Hernandez, responded last night to the comments, stating her judgment that Capriles and his campaign team were showing a “defiant attitude” on the issue, and that Venezuela’s electoral rules “are very clear” on prohibiting the use of national symbols.
She reiterated that electoral law applies to both candidates. “There’s one candidate [Chavez] who has removed his jacket with the national symbol, and there’s a candidate [Capriles] who we hope will remove his cap with the national symbol,” she explained.
The CNE will hold a simulation of the voting system this Sunday. Voting takes place on 7 October.