With fear of fraud, the opposition in Venezuela announced this Friday (16) that the primary elections to define the candidate who will face the dictator Nicolás Maduro in the presidential race in 2024 will be self-managed and will have manual voting. Electoral body support was scrapped after resignations the day before.
A commission made up of opponents had been negotiating with the National Electoral Council (CNE) the conditions for holding the primaries on October 22. This Thursday (15), however, the resignation of the Chavista wing of the electoral body increased mistrust about the fairness of the elections scheduled for 2024.
“[A votação manual] it is the right decision. He had no other alternative,” wrote opponent Henrique Capriles, who will run for the presidency for the third time, on social media. “Maduro, in his obsession with staying in power […]from day one sought to implode the primary process,” he added.
Holding the primaries without the help of the electoral body is possible, but “it’s not something that fell from the sky”, and the only way to achieve success is with the “support of those involved”, said Jesús María Casal, president of the commission in charge to organize the dispute between the opponents. According to him, the resignation of CNE members, whose reasons were not clear, “complicated” the dialogues between the parties.
Pedro Calzadilla, then president of the CNE, was one of the officials who handed over the position the day before. In a note that did not explain the decision, he limited himself to saying that he seeks to “facilitate the formation of a new CNE that represents the consensus and aspirations of the democratic sectors of the Venezuelan people.”
In addition to Calzadilla, Chavista dean Alexis Corredor also resigned. Tania D’Amelio, close to Maduro’s PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), resigned from the CNE in April last year to become a judge of the Supreme Court of Justice. With the moves, only opponents Roberto Picón and Enrique Márquez remained on the board, but their future is uncertain.
The Chavista regime announced that the electoral body will be renewed by the Parliament, controlled by supporters of the dictator Maduro and whose president, Jorge Rodríguez, proposed to elect five new principal rectors and ten substitutes. The details of the proposal or the date of the process were not announced.
According to the local press, replacing the opponents in the CNE would constitute an unconstitutional measure, according to experts interviewed by the media. The council replaced a provisional body accused of fraud in elections in 2020, when parliament was renewed, and in 2018, when Maduro was re-elected in a contested vote.
With a new formation, the CNE was responsible for organizing the 2021 regional elections, in which the European Union, which it accompanied as an observer, reported the persistence of inequalities in access to state resources for campaigning and media exposure, although it indicated “better conditions “.
The election was the first with the participation of independent international observers in 15 years, one of the regime’s concessions to try to end the economic sanctions that the country is the target of. Fragmented, the opposition did not achieve the expected victory, but achieved symbolic achievements, such as the triumph in Barinas, the state of former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013.
In an attempt to oppose the regime, opposition Capriles said that on Monday he will present a proposal for the primary to be “as broad as possible”. María Corina Machado, an opposition candidate who had asked for manual voting from the beginning, welcomed the new format. “It’s an achievement of the people.”