Elections in Venezuela: the campaign began with the participation of the opposition and the deployment of EU observers

A woman casts her vote in a mock election (Photo: REUTERS)

Tomás Guanipa, candidate for mayor of Caracas, talks with the residents of the poor neighborhoods in the west of the city where the deterioration of the streets obstructs traffic, the drinking water pipes are broken and the sewage carries garbage and decomposed organic remains in its path .

After almost two decades of pro-government mayors, the opposition candidate promises to address these and other problems and asks for the vote of the capital’s residents to “rescue” the city and for its nearly two million inhabitants to “live better.”

Naked eye Guanipa is one of the nearly 70,000 candidates for the election of governors, mayors, and state and municipal legislatures on November 21., but the opposition leader – accused by the Chavista regime of trying to overthrow the dictator Nicolás Maduro – was one of the deputies who left the country.

During his exile, he served for almost 19 months as the representative in Colombia of Juan Guaidó, who as head of the National Assembly was proclaimed in 2019 as interim president and is recognized by the United States and dozens of countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela after the 2018 election in which Maduro was proclaimed the winner amid allegations of fraud and irregularities .

Guanipa’s candidacy is, in part, the result of the judicial process against him being shelved by Maduro’s decision in August 2020. The return of many opponents this year to the electoral path ended up being raided in the framework of the now suspended dialogues in Mexico.

Guanipa, who is participating as an opposition delegate in the talks – unilaterally suspended by the regime in protest at the extradition of Alex Saab, Maduro’s front man, to the United States – is confident that the talks will resume after the elections.

Tomás Guanipa, mayoral candidate of the Democratic Unity Table for the Libertador municipality, greets supporters during his visit to the Carapita neighborhood of Caracas (Photo: AP)
Tomás Guanipa, mayoral candidate of the Democratic Unity Table for the Libertador municipality, greets supporters during his visit to the Carapita neighborhood of Caracas (Photo: AP)

The main opposition parties, that since 2017 they had boycotted the electoral processes alleging that there were no suitable conditions, confirmed their participation on August 31.

The boycott was then “fully justified“Since the conditions” were unacceptable to attend, “Guanipa told the agency AP on a tour of the San Juan Parish.

“We still do not have sufficient electoral conditions to be able to say that we are in a country where there are competitive elections, but the progress we have made is a gap that allows us to open a window of opportunity, which I think we have to take advantage of”, he said.

The electoral campaign officially began this Thursday in a scenario in which, beyond the election, both the authorities and the electoral system of Venezuela will be put to the test, discredited after years marked by the disqualification of parties and some of the most popular opposition candidates.

Many doubt the impartiality of the National Electoral Council (CNE), accused even of setting the dates of the elections and their conditions so that they adjust to the political objectives of the Maduro dictatorship to the detriment of his adversaries.

As part of the efforts of the new electoral authorities to clear up these doubts, the president of the CNE, Pedro Calzadillaannounced the deployment of 2,000 electoral prosecutors who will have the responsibility of monitoring compliance with the regulations during the electoral campaign. Among the powers of the prosecutors is to register any irregularity during the campaign and refer it to the electoral body so that the board of directors can take the corresponding corrective measures.

The electoral campaign will end on November 18th.

According to figures released by the Chavista authorities, more than 21 million Venezuelans are empowered to elect 3,082 positions in the elections, which were previously held separately due to the complexity of electing 23 governors, 335 mayors, and several thousand state and municipal legislators through lists that include candidates and their alternates.

More than 21 million Venezuelans are entitled to vote in the November regional elections (Photo: REUTERS)
More than 21 million Venezuelans are entitled to vote in the November regional elections (Photo: REUTERS)

Calzadilla stressed that the “electoral process takes place in the midst of a climate of dialogue” and guaranteed the “transparency and security of the vote.”

The elections will also be monitored by independent organizations, one of the main demands of the Venezuelan opposition.

The European Union (EU) accepted the invitation of the Venezuelan authorities and sent observers to monitor the electoral campaign and the upcoming elections. The EU, which last year did not recognize the legislative elections, had not participated in a Venezuelan electoral process since 2006.

The Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union (EOM-EU) will carry out an independent technical evaluation of the entire electoral process and will give recommendations for future elections. The EU-EOM On Thursday, 44 of its members were deployed throughout the different states of the country, under the supervision of the head of the operation, MEP Isabel Santos.

In a statement to the media, after meeting with the National Electoral Council (CNE), Santos explained that a “core team” of 11 people is also in Venezuela and, later, 34 more observers will join, as well as a delegation of 12 parliamentarians , “Some” diplomats and several more observers who will be hired in the country.

“We hope to reach November 21 with 100 or more observers, which means a great mission, compared to the numbers of previous missions in Venezuela and in other countries.”, detailed the Portuguese MEP.

Regarding the challenges they will face, he commented that the main one is, as in other countries, that of the covid-19 pandemic, which he described as “A very big challenge.”

Isabel Santos, head of the Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union in Venezuela (Photo: REUTERS)
Isabel Santos, head of the Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union in Venezuela (Photo: REUTERS)

Santos explained that the mission will observe “the entire electoral process.”, from the campaign to “the moment of voting” as well as the subsequent count, and also “if there is a claim” in the following days.

A summary of what is observed will be reflected in the preliminary report that the EU-EOM will present on November 23, with “all the conclusions” they have reached up to that point.

And the final report will arrive about two months later, during which time all the contributions of the observers will be evaluated in depth and in detail, which will serve to see if it is necessary to suggest some corrections and recommendations for future elections.

The mission will be in 22 of the 23 states, in addition to Caracas. Amazonas will be the only region where only a team of short-term observers will attend in the days leading up to the vote., due to logistics and security conditions.

Regarding his meeting with the CNE, Santos explained that it was “A welcome meeting” and work in which they addressed the last fringes of the deployment. During its work, the EU-EOM will meet “with all political actors,” as well as “with civil society,” according to Santos.

Regarding the work methodology, he explained that the EU observers will be distributed “by the various states and they will visit” these “to make the widest possible coverage.”

“This is something we do in various parts of the world and we are very trained to do it and we will do it very well,” he said.

(With information from AP and EFE)

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