Venezuela: Electoral Authorities Set Presidential Elections for July 28

The election calendar was chosen from several proposals outlined in a national agreement submitted last week by various sectors of Venezuelan society.
The CNE board made the announcement on March 5, during the 11th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s passing. (@cneesvzla / X)

Caracas, March 6, 2024 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has unveiled the calendar for this year’s presidential elections.

During a press conference on Tuesday, CNE President Elvis Amoroso announced that the body’s board had unanimously decided to schedule the upcoming vote for July 28. Political parties will be able to register presidential candidates between March 21-25, with the electoral campaign slated to take place from July 4 to July 25.

Venezuelan citizens, both within the country and abroad, can register in the electoral roll or change their voting center from March 18 to April 16. However, people on social media have commented that CNE offices in the capital Caracas are already registering new voters and allowing polling center updates.

Additionally, the selection of members for the subordinate electoral bodies is scheduled for March 20. 

“This electoral timetable includes all the constitutional, legal, and technical requirements to hold the 2024 presidential vote,” said Amoroso during Tuesday’s press conference. 

Amoroso was accompanied by CNE board members, Vice President Carlos Quintero and rectors Rosalba Gil, Aimé Nogal, and Juan Carlos Delpino. The latter two are perceived to be aligned with the moderate faction of the Venezuelan opposition.

The former comptroller explained that the electoral calendar was drawn from the national electoral agreement submitted to the CNE the previous Friday. This document bore the signatures of 152 representatives hailing from a wide array of political, economic, and social sectors within Venezuelan society, all of whom had engaged in a comprehensive weeks-long nationwide dialogue. 

During these talks, the signatories put forth 27 possible potential election dates, agreed to abide by the CNE’s calendar decision and submitted recommendations on electoral guarantees, campaigning rules and international observer missions. They also pledged to defend national sovereignty and reject foreign aggression.

“The National Electoral Council congratulates the people of Venezuela and invites everyone to participate [in July’s election] with the best electoral system in the world,” concluded Amoroso.

According to the Venezuelan constitution, the presidential election is set to take place every six years organized by the CNE authorities. The previous vote was held on May 20, 2018, resulting in President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election for a second mandate. 

The date for the 2024 vote and electoral conditions have been at the center of political talks since 2021 with the Maduro government and the US-backed Unitary Platform engaging in an on-and-off dialogue process. After years of boycotts, the hardline opposition decided to return to the ballot.

In November 2022, the negotiations were suspended after the opposition and the US government failed to bring to fruition an agreement to create a US $3 billion fund, drawn from Venezuelan seized assets abroad, to attend to urgent social needs. The resources were never released.

In October 2023, the parties resumed the dialogue and signed the Barbados Agreement where they compromised for the presidential vote to be held in the second half of 2024. They also pledged that each political faction would select its candidates freely as long as they were eligible to participate under the Venezuelan Constitution and laws.

The Norway-brokered accord likewise led to Washington issuing limited licenses for the Venezuelan oil, gas and gold sectors under sanctions as well as the release of opposition figures and US citizens jailed in the country for alleged participation in coup and terrorist plots. 

Additionally, the Maduro administration and hardline opposition later agreed to implement an appeal mechanism for opposition leaders who were banned from holding public office. 

In January, the Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ) lifted several bans but rejected far-right politician María Corina Machado’s challenge to her present 15-year disqualification, pointing to her participation in coup attempts and corrupt dealings. The US State Department responded by revoking the gold license and threatening to do the same for the energy sector when the sanctions waivers expire in April.

Machado was the winner of the opposition’s internal primaries on October 2023, though the process was mired in controversy and had its results suspended by the Supreme Court. 

After the CNE’s calendar announcement, Machado said she would continue to push her candidacy. Although her political party Vente Venezuela does not belong to the Unitary Platform and does not participate in the dialogue with the government, the coalition has nonetheless supported the former lawmaker’s claim. 

For its part, Caracas has called to respect the judicial authorities’ decision and rejected any violations of the Barbados Agreement. Furthermore, National Assembly (AN) president and head of the government dialogue delegation, Jorge Rodríguez, said the accord had been discarded and replaced by the document reached last week in the national consensus dialogue. 

The Unitary Platform did not participate in the talks and did not sign the agreement delivered to the electoral authorities. However, hardline opposition representative Gerardo Blyde stated that the US-backed factions would not renounce the electoral path. So far, they have not announced a candidate to represent the coalition.

Other opposition sectors have already fielded potential candidates while some independent figures have begun to emerge. In the government camp, Maduro is set to be the candidate for the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) to pursue a third mandate.

“The Electoral Power has spoken. It has summoned us for July 28. Let us go forward for the love of Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution and the love of our Eternal Commander Hugo Chávez. Let us go to battle and let us win!”, Maduro wrote on X. The election date holds significance within Chavismo ranks as Chávez’s birthday is on July 28.

On Tuesday, hours after the electoral date was announced, the Joe Biden administration renewed the 2015 Executive Order that declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and foreign policy.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil issued a communique rejecting the “sustained aggression campaign against the Venezuelan people” and labeling it “collective punishment.”

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.