Venezuelan governing socialist party holds primary election today (updated III)
Updates: 2 June 2008. PSUV primary results were published late on Sunday night. They show that 14 out of 22 Governor candidates managed to obtain more that 50% of the votes or 15% more than their opponents. Thus, they secured the nomination for the local election campaign. The remaining eight candidates will now undergo a further selection by PSUV National Board. 189 candidates also succeeded in obtaining their nominations as PSUV majors for the November elections.
Turn out was not very good; only 2,5 million voters out of 6 millions casted their votes. Thus, less than half the PSUV electorate attended the elections. This fact has been used by the opposition to minimize the effects of the primaries. The PSUV members stated otherwise and challenged the opposition party to hold democratic primaries themselves. Furthermore, International observers hailed the PSUV primaries as transparent and democratic.
At 4:00 PM Venezuelan Time (VT) on Sunday 1 June 2008, voting was still taking place at the 3,489 poll stations. Only 1.5% polling stations had closed by 6:00 PM (VT). Thus, preliminary results are expected at 9:00 PM (VT) of after voting ends. After casting his vote in Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated this electoral consultation was a memorable event in the electoral history of the country. Never before had people been consulted on the selection of their Majors and Governors, Chavez added. Finally, Chavez urged all other political parties to celebrate primary elections to comply with the Constitution.
Reacting on the electoral event, local opposition claimed the government had incurred in corruption by promoting PSUV primary elections. However, current Constitution asked for people consultation. Legislation also allows the electoral body -CNE- to logistically back any party primaries.
Caracas, Venezuela, 1 June 2008. Today, almost 6 million members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will go to the ballots in their first primary elections. They will decide -among their fellow party members - the official candidates for the November 23, 2008 local elections for Mayors and Governors. Even though its predecessor party - MVR- held the very first primary elections during Venezuelan democratic life, the newly born PSUV will attempt the electoral experience anew. PSUV was created just this year to overcome both revolt among alliance parties and the defeat of the 2 November 2007 referendum for constitutional reform.
Now, the political forces backing President Hugo Chavez- Fatherland for All (PPT) and Communist Party (PCV)- are collected under one single socialist tenant to promote his policies and further "socialist" changes. However, party discipline has been very hard to achieve. President Chavez had to ban PSUV candidates from performing early campaigns or self-nominations for the posts; politicians, who felt they would not count on the PSUV backing, have left the party or experienced expulsion. Furthermore, ideological differences run under the PSUV badly. The recent attempt to enact neo-liberal regulations on official footage by Minister of Information and Communication, Andres Izarra, showed how fragile the socialist dogma and praxis in among PSUV members and Chavez´s top aides. Military rightists and matured communists cohabit in the PSUV with continuous and muted clashes; there have even been proposals for a future without Chavez.
These primary elections are rather important for President Chavez himself. If PSUV were defeated and could not regain power at local level, victorious opposition would push for a recall referendum by 2010. However, democratically elected PSUV candidates would confront electoral challenges from a briefly empowered opposition and a disenchanted electorate. After winning the November 2007 referendum, the opposition failed to organize itself. Furthermore, its candidates have not been elected by its grassroots in primary elections. On the contrary, they have been appointed by its old fashion leaders or after negotiated consultations among few elite rivals.
On Saturday, Chavez made a call for the PSUV members to vote today massively. But after that electoral exercise, his top political aides and newly elected PSUV candidates would need to entice a growing disenchanted electorate. Administrative inefficiency, increasing crime, belated justice distribution and corruption are on the way as unresolved and insurmountable obstacles for the victory at local elections. Official calls for self-revision and administrative efficiency made last year have proved to be just empty rhetoric and not policy. Much more than the opposition campaigns and media misinformation, enticing the disenchanted electorate is the challenge for the PSUV to win local elections in November and secure President Chavez a longer term in office.
PS: On a rainy day, PSUV primary election have taken place as scheduled and peacefully. Its members gathered to vote from very early this morning. Results are expected today some time after 4:00 PM - Venezuelan Time (VT).
Related stories: Venezuelan Information Minister resigns over official footage copyright row (Updated III), Referendum: Venezuela nearly turned socialist (updated), Venezuela votes draft constitution (updated IV), Understanding constitutional reform in Venezuela (a background)