( Spanish) –– The National Assembly of Venezuela, with an official majority, is working on the renewal of the authorities of the Electoral Power, which held office since May 2021 and whose mandate, according to the provisions of the Constitution, was scheduled for seven years. Now the issue is handled as a parliamentary urgency.
The preliminary commission appointed by Parliament, of which the deputy and first lady Cilia Flores is a part, has already met twice, the most recent on Tuesday, advancing in the objective of designating the Nominations Committee, whose mission will present the candidates for rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE).
The vice president of the commission, José Gregorio Correa, declared that “according to the tentative schedule, before 70 days they could be presenting to the country the names of the new principal and alternate rectors.” This, he explained, with the aim of covering the “absolute” vacancies that exist today. The legislator estimates that the Nominations Committee could be installed next week.
Similarly, as established in the regulations, a call was published for all citizens who want to apply to do so within a period of seven continuous days from the dissemination of the announcement, made this Monday. In this way, those interested could choose to join the 11 deputies of the National Assembly to the Electoral Nominations Committee-2023, which will have the objective of selecting the candidates for rector of the electoral power.
The process began in the National Assembly after the resignation of two main rectors and six substitute rectors of the National Electoral Council, close to the ruling party, on June 15, and to which were added the resignations of the rectors linked to the opposition, Roberto Picón and Enrique Márquez, which were disseminated through communiqués on June 19 and 20, respectively. This occurred days after the renewal process of the authorities began, including their charges.
The rectors’ resignation was anticipated on the Parliament’s agenda, one day before it was announced. In addition, progress was made in the renewal of the CNE even without knowing the willingness to resign of Márquez and Picón, both postulated with the support of civil society and factors critical of the government in the framework of a political negotiation, as recognized by the different sectors of the country. It is not clear if the new process responds or not to a new negotiation process.
Doubts cloud the path to a new CNE
The Venezuelan Electoral Observatory, through a statement released on Saturday, warned that these events could, in its opinion, “compromise the legitimacy of a new CNE from its birth.” After referring to the surprising resignation of the rectors and the speed with which Parliament began the process of renewing the CNE, they affirm that it would be “reducing the much-needed citizen confidence in the Electoral Power for the new cycle”, in which, specify, should begin next year with the presidential election.
The observatory assures that it will carefully follow the process to denounce possible irregularities and in order to demand compliance with current legislation to maintain confidence in the electoral system.
For its part, the Civic Forum organization spoke out this Tuesday in a statement to describe the renewal process of the CNE as “an unfortunate event of institutional breakdown.” Also to express that they consider it crucial that the country respond decisively to what they call “a new attempt to undermine the electoral route and break the trust of the electorate.”
They also refer in the letter that the government sector decided to advance in the renewal of the Electoral Power despite the efforts of political actors and civil society for the reinstitutionalization of the country, through agreements with the regime of President Nicolás Maduro, who supported the appointments to the CNE in 2021. However, they emphasize that they ratify their commitment to continue working on the construction of guarantees, necessary for the new electoral cycle of 2024 and 2025.
For the journalist specialized in the electoral source Eugenio Martínez, “the forced and unilateral change of the CNE definitely affects the conditions and guarantees of the 2024 presidential election.” He also considers that these steps “represent a significant setback in the precarious advances, but advances at last, that had been achieved for the regional elections in 2021.”
Martínez agrees in the calculation that it is most probable that in the next 70 days a new Electoral Power will be designated and that the composition of that CNE will be subject to the advances or not that exist in a unilateral negotiation process between the Governments of States United States and that of Nicolás Maduro, regarding electoral guarantees. He assures that on that table there would also be issues such as the release of people imprisoned for political reasons and what concerns the economic sanctions that weigh on Venezuela.
Eugenio Martínez specifies that, in his opinion, the most serious thing is that, unlike other countries, the National Electoral Council has the rank of Public Power, as is the case with the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Powers. However, he clarifies that what has been seen during the current administration is that the madurismo has changed the CNE according to the political moment. Therefore, he affirms that the CNE, in the last decade, has had a biased behavior with the interests of the Venezuelan Government.
Faced with criticism of the CNE’s actions, the Electoral Power has defended itself on multiple occasions, assuring that it has the best electoral system in the region and one of the best in the world.