Principal and alternate rectors of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) decided to resign just before it was announced whether the body would provide technical assistance to the opposition presidential primaries. Parliament decided to replace the entire board of that body, despite the fact that not all of its members put their positions to order.
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It doesn’t matter that they haven’t all quit. The National Assembly of Venezuela, which controls the government party, will replace the entire board of the National Electoral Council considering that there has been an “absolute lack” after the president of the organization, Pedro Calzadilla, ratified that two main rectors, including him, and six substitutes put their charges to order, without explaining reasons.
The decision does not include the main rectors Roberto Picón and Enrique Márquez, nor their alternates, considered independent of the official line. But they will still be replaced. Until the afternoon of this Thursday, none of them had spoken.
The preliminary commission of deputies that begins the process to appoint a new director of the electoral council includes Cilia Flores, wife of Nicolás Maduro, who is seeking re-election in 2024.
Although Calzadilla said that the officials will maintain their activities until they are replaced in the coming months, the announcement upsets the opposition primaries, which were awaiting confirmation of whether the electoral body would let them use their machines for the October 22 process that they aspire to. achieve a unitary presidential candidate.
The Primary Commission declared itself in permanent session to study whether they will opt for a manual process, which could be limited in scope as it has a higher cost and fewer polling stations. Abroad, the primaries will not be affected since it was already decided that they would be manual and self-managed.
“An institutional crisis is deliberately created that makes it possible to replace rectors who are not hard-line with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, with probably people who have a much closer ideological affinity to the government party. Additionally, it generates enough doubts in the Venezuelan opposition so that he does not accept or so that he does not continue working with the technical assistance of the CNE and has to carry out a manual primary”, explains Eugenio Martínez, journalist and expert in electoral processes, to RFI.
“Obviously, in any country in the world, carrying out a manual voting process is very simple. This is not the case in Venezuela, where for the Venezuelan opposition, given that it is not a totally democratic system, it is very difficult to find providers that can print the voting papers, and that because they work for the Venezuelan opposition they are willing to receive some type of legal pressure, fiscal pressure or pressure of any other type,” he stresses.
A questioned CNE
The current board of five rectors of the CNE was appointed in 2021 as a result of a political negotiation well received by the international community.
That designation came after allegations of fraud that led to ignorance of the re-election of the socialist president Nicolás Maduro in 2018 and the triumph of Chavismo in the 2020 legislative elections, two processes boycotted by the largest opposition parties.
The outgoing CNE organized the November 2021 regional elections, in which the European Union, which attended as an observer for the first time in 15 years, reported irregularities despite finding “better conditions.”
Chavismo won most of the mayors and governorships, although it lost the state of Barinas, the home region of former President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), which his family ruled since the late leader came to power.
The election was repeated by judicial order and a month later the opposition won again.
After years of complaints against the CNE for favoring the government, the opposition asked the entity for technical assistance to organize their internal elections, on October 22, in which they seek to elect Maduro’s rival in 2024. There was, however, resistance from some actors to that decision.
Political scientist Ana Milagros Parra estimated that the decision to change the electoral authorities seeks to “delay the primary process and further divide public opinion.”
“It is part of the idea of demoralizing the people, promoting a scenario of abstention, of disappointment with the idea of voting, a bit to work on that perception that it is not worth voting because the government practically does what it is given to do.” wins”, agreed Quintero in turn.
The commission that organizes the opposition primaries “has declared itself in permanent session to analyze the events,” said its president, Jesús María Casal. “We go ahead with the primary election, as we have always said.”
Former deputy Tamara Adrián, who registered her candidacy for the internal process on Thursday, said that the decision to change the CNE seeks to “implode the primary.”
“The game that (in Chavismo) they want to play is the game of multiple (opposition) candidates against a single candidate,” the first trans woman to seek the presidency of this conservative country told reporters.