Venezuelan Election Laws are Designed to Guarantee Democracy Despite Personal Ambitions

Photograph Source: Planet Volumes

Venezuela has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world spearheaded by former president Hugo Chavez in 1999. Article 1 sets the tone: “The Republic of Venezuela is forever and irrevocably free and independent from any domination or protection by a foreign power.” This is binding to everyone in Venezuela. The constitution is supported by a strong set of regulatory legislation that is also applied judiciously by the different government bodies and Venezuelan institutions under a strict democratic process determined to defend its sovereignty and independence. One piece of legislation in particular is relevant these days as the country approaches a democratic presidential election on July 28. That is the Organic Law of Electoral Processes. However, one ambitious candidate is willing to break the law – and with it the democratic process – in order to succeed in her intentions.

If you hear the US based media and some government officials you would think that Venezuela is a dictatorship that prevents political parties and presidential candidates to participate in the elections. One Venezuelan candidate would also try to convince you of that. She is Maria Corina Machado who is a member of one of the old Venezuelan elite families that has lost its prominence after the more egalitarian government of Hugo Chavez, but most dangerously represent the rightwing Vente Venezuela party determined to get rid of president Nicolas Maduro at all costs.

Ms. Machado has a long history of violating Venezuelan laws in her eagerness to regain the family ascendance by vehemently and violently rejecting the more popular ideology of Chavismo. She has been doing so not by seeking the support of the Venezuelan people but by seeking foreign support instead, namely from the United States.

Quite predictably, Washington actively promotes her as the opposition candidate and by doing so it sets the stage for delegitimising the Venezuelan presidential election.

In a recent article titled Yet again US meddles in another nation’s elections” Venezuelan Canadian author and analyst María Páez Victor writes that the US government totally disregards the fact that in 2015, Machado was disqualified from running for public office for 15 years, for corruption and for representing a foreign country (Panama) while being a Parliamentary deputy, which is forbidden by the Constitution.  This disqualification has been ratified by the highest court, Venezuelas Supreme Court.

In fact, encouraged by the support of the US government, Ms. Machado has committed serious violations against the Venezuelan democratic process for her involvement in attempted coups détat, and acts of public violence, for asking for more illegal sanctions against Venezuela, and even for advocating US military intervention in Venezuela”.

Maria Paez Victor further writes Machado supported vicious street violence of 2014 that left 43 people dead and called for people to boycott elections instead of exercising their democratic rights. Astonishingly she asked for more sanctions on Venezuela! Socially, she is quite disliked for her outrageous narcissism even among people who are no friends of the government.

Probably, confronted with the reality of her past and the disqualification to be a presidential candidate for her rightwing party Vente Venezuela, she attempted to appoint a substitute Corina Yoris, an 80-year-old university professor. However, Ms Yoris was unable to register confronted with some legal barrier established by the electoral process.

It is important to understand some of the legal aspects of the registration process of presidential candidates in the elections in Venezuela in order to dispel the misinformation about candidates being prevented from registering. The misinformation might explain some reactions of “concern” about the electoral process in Venezuela from the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Brazil and Colombia. The Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil correctly attributed their criticism to the “profound ignorance about the political reality in Venezuela”. Hence the importance to understand the process.

We thank Tania Diaz for providing this information. Tania Diaz is a prominent Venezuelan journalist and politician. She has served as Minister of Communication and Information of Venezuela as well as deputy and second vice-president of the National Assembly until 2016.

Article 47 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes declares who has the right to nominate candidates for the electoral process. Those are:

1. Organizations with political purposes

2. Groups of voters

3. Citizens on their own initiative

4. Indigenous communities or organizations

Each one defined in subsequent articles.

It is a legal requirement that organizations with political purposes and groups of voters have a person accredited to the National Electoral Council (CNE for its acronym in Spanish) who has the sole power to formalise the nomination of candidates for the elections. Only that accredited person can do it. Not any other party member or person. Much less can the candidate do it him/herself by just filling out information on the CNE website.

It’s to be noted that Vente Venezuela is not an accredited party because it has not met the necessary requirements before the CNE. In fact, it has not participated in any election until the current attempt. It only ran in a highly contested opposition primary (not election) in 2023, held without electoral registration and with the sole arbitration of the mate organization, of which Ms. Machado is a founding member. All documents were shredded after the primary.

As established in Article 27 of the Law of Political Partiesthe registration of any political organization that does not run for two consecutive elections expires and must renew it for good standing. Therefore it was up to Vente Venezuela to apply for a new registration by presenting the signatures of at least five percent of the electoral register and by showing that the party was established in no less than 12 regions of the country. This is a procedure that Vente Venezuela did not complete.

Therefore, as Vente Venezuela is not a party authorised before the CNE, its next option was to reach consensus with other organizations duly authorised for this 2024 presidential election, in this case they would be the accredited Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) and Fuerza Vecinal, with whom it supposedly had a prior agreement.

What happened is that when the time came, these parties that were authorised to participate in the electoral process and to register candidates, did not support Vente Venezuela. Incidentally, the UNT has registered its own candidate, Manuel Rosales, whom Ms. Machado accused him of betrayal” for not supporting her. This is suggestive of internal divisions within some of the opposition political organizations.

As far as is known, they did not accept that Ms. Machado “handpicked” the hitherto unknown candidate Corina Yoris.

Still without any explicit support, Corina Yoris could have taken the third option established by law to be a candidate by her own Initiative. But in this case, according to the provisions of Article 52 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes, she had to present the supporting signatures corresponding to five percent of the last electoral roll to the CNE.

Why didnVente Venezuela follow any the available legal paths to register their candidate?

Given their claim of having the support of more than two million voters in the primaries of the so-called Unitary Platform 2023 they could have easily collected the required number of signatures. But it had to stand the test of the verification commission reviewing the legality and legitimacy of the signatures and endorsements, as established by the same organic law.

There is yet another possibility and that is the refusal by Ms. Machado to be submitted to a democratic legislation that she would have regretted if her candidate did not get the large number of votes on July 28. 

In fact, it is more likely that Ms. Machado has not had major national support for some time and is also losing international support.

Her agenda was never electoral, which is why from the beginning she sabotaged any possibility of achieving a consensus candidacy from the opposition.

Her true plan is violence and the modus operandi is making propaganda with a supposedly legitimate intention to participate in elections, but setting up all possible traps and obstacles so that the democratic path becomes unviable and so being able to accuse the government of preventing her participation.

In this way she manages to sustain the hackneyed story of tyranny”, with which she dreams of one day carrying out a foreign military invasion that will manage to remove Chavismo from power by violent means, because she knows she will not achieve it through elections with the support of the majority of Venezuelans. 

Since Chávez’s electoral victory in 1999, in 24 years, Venezuela has held 35 elections, including a referendum on the new Constitution. Chavismo lost two at the national level. The democratic opposition elected governors, deputies and mayors at the local level.

The democratic process will be no different this year. For the record, the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) reported that 37 political organizations and parties were involved in the registration process which took place between March 21 and 25. A total of 13 candidates will compete on July 28 in Venezuelas presidential elections. The candidates are Luis Eduardo Martínez, Daniel Ceballos, Antonio Ecarri, Juan Carlos Alvarado, José Brito, Benjamín Rausseo, Javier Bertucci, Claudio Fermín, Luis Ratti, Enrique Márquez, Nicolás Maduro, Manuel Rosales, and Eduardo González Urrutia.

Venezuela has proven that its people are more than capable of governing themselves and making their own choices of who best represents them. The majority of Venezuelans reject any foreign interference into their sovereign decision-making process and any foreign coercion into breaking their own laws. Certainly Venezuela does not deserve the US unilateral coercive measures that are imposed with cruelty, abusively and illegally, but then the whole world does not deserve a US empire that is cruel, abusive and law-breaking. 

When laws are democratically and peacefully created domestically or internationally they have the purpose of sustaining democracy and peace. No one can be above those laws.