Venezuelan Opposition Insists on Manual Voting for Primary Election

The country’s CNE’s proposal to reschedule the opposition primary contest to guarantee support and transparency was rejected.
The hardline opposition has faced internal criticism for issues within the self-organized electoral process. (Archive)

Caracas, October 05, 2023 ( – The Venezuelan opposition has confirmed the use of manual voting for the primary election scheduled for October 22, rejecting the automated process offered by the National Electoral Council (CNE).

In a communique released on Monday, the opposition’s National Primary Commission (CNP) argued that on June 5 they requested a meeting with the country’s electoral authorities to define the technical assistance for the primary race but ten days later several CNE board members resigned their posts and the talks never continued. As a result, the commission carried on with self-organizing the vote. 

Following the resignation of the electoral authorities on June 15, Venezuela’s National Assembly (AN) began the long process of drawing selections from a list of 104 candidates. The new CNE board was finally announced on August 24 charged with the task to oversee the 2024 presidential election.

On September 28, the CNE’s new president Elvis Amoroso reported on a meeting with the primary commission and proposed moving the election to November 19 in order to guarantee the automatization of the process and transparency for voters. 

“[We] thank the CNE for its proposal for technical assistance with the use of the automated voting system, which would have been useful, but the primary election we are conducting is already in its final phase and the election is ready to be held on October 22,” responded the National Primary Commission in its statement.

The text added that more than 40,000 volunteers have already been trained for a manual voting process, which would count with 5,000 polling stations distributed in 3,010 voting centers. The 13-candidate ballot has also been approved and printed.

However, the primary commission said the CNE could provide assistance in specific issues such as adding or replacing voting centers, coordinating with state security forces to guarantee a peaceful process, helping move electoral material and facilitating the entry of international observers and the foreign press.

For its part, in a communique published on Monday, the CNE board reiterated its willingness “to provide automated technical support to the National Primary Commission […] in order to guarantee a reliable, transparent process, which stimulates the participation of all voters.”

The national electoral authorities likewise reaffirmed their commitment to democracy and recalled that the country counts on a renowned automatic voting system.

Some analysts have argued that a manual voting process is more vulnerable to rigging, undermining the legitimacy of the result. In 2017 the opposition independently organized a non-binding consultation that was plagued with irregularities. 

Another recurrent concern is the participation of Venezuelans abroad as the Nicolás Maduro government does not count on diplomatic recognition in some countries such as the United States. According to the opposition organizers, 300,000 people have registered abroad.

On Thursday, the National Primary Commission’s president Jesús María Casal, said that “everything was moving forward” regarding the overseas voting. 

“In each of the cities where we have a voting center, there is a local committee that is solving all the logistical and organizational issues. There are only a few places where some final arrangements need to be made,” said Casal during an interview

After years of pursuing regime change in Venezuela via unconstitutional means, the country’s hardline opposition has largely abandoned its abstentionist strategy. In February the opposition forces laid out a road map to hold a primary contest to choose a unified presidential candidate, announcing that they intended to hold a vote on October 22.

Among the 13 candidates that will compete in the primary race is far-right politician Maria Corina Machado, who has enthusiastically embraced Washington’s regime change plots, including military intervention. As a result, she was banned from holding political office. However, some private polls place Machado as the leading contender, raising concerns about a scenario in which the elected unitary candidate can not run for president.

Former Miranda governor Henrique Capriles, who lost presidential races in 2012 and 2013, has likewise launched his candidacy despite being banned from political office in relation to his involvement with the 2013 violent protests that left several dead. 

Other contenders include former Bolívar governor Andrés Velásquez from La Causa R, Freddy Superlano from far-right Voluntad Popular and former national deputy Carlos Prosperi, from Acción Democrática (AD), one of the traditional political parties in Venezuela.

Recently, Prosperi denounced the lack of transparency and organization in the opposition’s internal electoral process. He pointed out that most people do not know where the voting centers are located which has created distrust and could result in low turnout. In July, primary commission vice president María Carolina Uzcátegui resigned, arguing that there were no conditions to hold a meaningful vote.