Venezuela: Call for “illegitimate and unconstitutional” elections

The purpose of this entire network is to favor or justify the re-election of Nicolás Maduro, say lawyers and political analysts.

Last March 5, when the National Electoral Council, CNE, informed the country that in four months there would be elections, according to the schedule organized in quick time, that body under official control revealed a strategy that is far from legality and seeks to demobilize Venezuelans who want a peaceful political change, explains lawyer Nelson Chitty La Roche, specialist in constitutional law.

Chitty La Roche, professor and former parliamentarian, does not allude to the fact that the elections have not been called for the month of December, as was the historical tradition in Venezuela until 1999, since this is the sixth since that year to which the CNE discretionally puts the date, by provision of the Electoral Processes Law (2009), approved during the power of Hugo Chávez. Likewise, the expert mentions other deviations.

“The call for this abrupt electoral schedule gives a period of just 147 days for the election, but the constitutional framework that governs the electoral process indicates that the call must be known to everyone six months in advance,” he indicates and specifies that the country “has known about this systemic process of deconstitutionalization for 25 years.”

Furthermore, the schedule imposes a disadvantageous race against time on the opposition and voters. The application period, today, is just eight days (from March 21 to 25) and the electoral registry for registering new voters and updating data is just one month: It begins on March 18 and ends on April 16; little time in a country overwhelmed by difficulties, and there have been no reports of voting centers, but it does require a “dress code.” That last day it would be known how many Venezuelans will vote in the presidential elections.

Elections, without rights politicians

Chitty La Roche warns that the problem lies in “constitutional interpretations that are very often contrary to the Constitution itself and even to the elementary principles of Constitutional Law” and cites the political disqualification applied to the opposition presidential candidate María Corina Machado in June 2023, ratified by the Supreme Court seven months later, and publicly reported by the CNE this March 11.

The decision prevents Machado, elected candidate in opposition primaries with more than 3 million votes, from exercising not only any public office, such as the presidential one, even if she has been legitimized by the popular vote, but also her political rights.

“This has no legal or constitutional basis,” says the lawyer.

In this context of uncertainty, the opposition of the Unitary Platform faces its greatest political challenge: In 12 days this political force must decide whether to register Machado, despite the illegal disqualification, or another candidate who has the acceptance of the elected candidate. , to defeat Maduro in his re-election bid.

The dilemma would also be weighing even more internally on the PSUV, the regime’s party, according to Professor Carmen Beatriz Fernández, a specialist in Political Science and international political consultant.

Based on recent studies, Fernández maintains that all surveys indicate Maduro with “very low” levels of popular affection, between 12% and 20% “the most generous”, compared to Machado who “in any scenario” would have above 30 points. of difference or more, as required. “And even in the scenario that Machado could not register, but could express her support for a substitute candidate or in whom she places her trust, the difference with Maduro would also be about 30 points.”

Unconstitutional maneuvers

Faced with this scenario, the Venezuelan regime would have no choice but to “do what suits it to demotivate the electorate and dissuade the nature of the electoral event, which is none other than political control and a sovereign manifestation of confidence,” says Chitty La. Roche.

“The regime does not want clean elections and works in any case so that the 5 million voters abroad do not vote; young people and those who would have to change residence, who total 3.6 million; and he is also intimidating so that people stay home in fear, with disappointment.”

Fernández sees clearly that the July 28 elections “will be neither free nor fair” in accordance with the international standards that govern electoral processes. And he equates the presidential process with the simile of the “tilted field” in a soccer game to illustrate a “rigged election.” It means that one of the team’s players, in the game of soccer, has an easier time scoring goals than others, because the slope of the field favors him, explains the teacher.

“That the player who is in the government is the one who controls the arbitration, this has been the case in Venezuela for many years. But in each election the field becomes more and more inclined, making it easier for the official player to win.”

Civil society time

Despite the adversity that the “tilted field” means, analysts foresee “very important advantages” for the opposition. “This way the field becomes vertical and becomes a basketball court having called a soccer game,” says Fernández.

“I believe that the differences that exist between the Maduro option and his disaffection and that of the opposition are so overwhelming, so important for society that this becomes an opportunity that society must bet on the unity of the democratic vote and know how to take advantage of to for political change to occur.”

Francisco Coello, sociologist and university professor (UCAB) perceives that, although the regime aims at demobilization along with advantageism and violation of norms, Venezuelans will continue to adhere to the electoral route that the opposition has outlined. “And it is an achievement, people have bought it and are not going to abandon it. That is why I believe that a winning solution for the elections is open.”

A contrary scenario would mean the devastation of the country, he says, because he believes that the best option is the electoral process with an agreed and peaceful solution. “A transition, like the one that worked even under Franco in Spain, provides gains not for one side but for the country.”

Fernández, for whom the times in the electoral schedule “are moderately within the agreements of Barbados, and the most serious electoral oversight and observation organizations,” highlights a particular aspect, beyond emotional motivations: the date chosen for the election. presidential.

A change in Venezuela?

“They squared it with Chávez’s birthday and that is a sign of how weakened Maduro is, who has been trying for four years to gain leadership for himself without being covered by the shadow of Chávez, with the “super mustache” campaign. , but that failed. But why was that date chosen in the second half of 2024, why so early?”

“I think that one of the reasons, and we have to put a magnifying glass on this, is that it is possible that they are thinking about having the reins for an eventual transition process, which, if the election were in December, could be complicated by an uncertain process. which can lead to the abandonment of power,” he reasons.

And he continues: “But in July they would have nine months, from July 28 until the inauguration in March 2025, for a transition process that may be conducted, with the reins well taken, by the ruling party, by the ‘maturism’ or the generalship I think there are people inside who, no matter how secretive it is and no matter how many internal discussions there are, I think there are people who are thinking about that transition and the date can be an indicator of that thought.”

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