Venezuela: Gubernatorial elections set for December 10

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council  has set December 10 as the date for gubernatorial elections, after they were controversially postponed in 2016.

Venezuela’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia, Leiff Escalona, told a news conference today  that council President, Tibisay Lucena,  stated that the electoral body was close to concluding a six-month long registration process to validate Venezuelan political parties, meaning that election dates could finally be announced.  

According to  Escalona, Lucena also confirmed that elections to choose delegates to the National Constituent Assembly  announced by President Nicolas Maduro on May 1st will take place “at the end of July”.  

(H.E Leiff Escalona at today’s news conference)

The following is the Ambassador’s statement to today’s news conference:

The following is to update you on events which are scheduled to take place in Venezuela over the next seven (7) months, as well as to review events which have taken place over the past few weeks.

  • On Tuesday May 23rd 2017, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (NEC) has set December 10 as the date for gubernatorial elections, after they were controversially postponed in 2016.  

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, NEC President Tibisay Lucena stated that the electoral body was close to concluding a six-month long registration process to validate Venezuelan political parties, meaning that election dates could finally be announced.  

  • She also confirmed that elections to choose delegates to the National Constituent Assembly (NEC) announced by President Nicolas Maduro on May 1st will take place “at the end of July”.  

On May 1, President Nicolas Maduro, in a surprise initiative, decided to convoke the Constituent Assembly as a political solution to the past seven weeks of violent protest and to the ongoing confrontation between the opposition-controlled National Assembly and the Executive Branch of Government.   

Meanwhile, at a pro-government march in Caracas on Tuesday, the Venezuelan President announced ten points that will orientate the constituent process as it moves ahead.  

The information (the most in-depth to have been made public since the initiative to re-write the country’s Constitution was first announced) was divulged by the President following several meetings with the

Presidential Constituent Commission, which is tasked with overseeing the process.  

According to statements from President Maduro, the NCA will be made up of 181 sectoral delegates, 364 territorial delegates, which will include 8 indigenous representatives, who will be elected according to indigenous norms and customs.  

The President explained that one constituent delegate will be elected by a majority vote in each municipality across the country, regardless of population size, while two constituent delegates will be elected in each of Venezuela’s 23 states via proportional representation.

(Representatives of the local media at news conference)

Venezuelans may put themselves forward as a territorial candidate or be nominated by a group of voters, however they must have the support of 3% of the electoral roll in their corresponding municipality.  

Meanwhile sectoral delegates will be elected from amongst constituencies of workers, rural workers (farmers) and fishermen, students, people living with disabilities, indigenous peoples, pensioners, business people, and spokespeople from communes and communal councils.

The “workers” sectoral category will be broken down into sub-sections which include oil, mining, basic industries, business, education, health, sport, transport, construction, culture, press, science, technology and public administration.

According to President Maduro, the National Electoral Council (NEC) will be responsible for co-ordinating with official institutions, trade unions, and professional guilds in order to cross-check their employee records with electoral lists. The electoral body will also make contact with private and public universities, as well as with state educational missions, to obtain records for the country’s student sector.  

One national delegate will be elected for every 83,000 voters on the electoral list for each sectoral constituency, with the exception of the commune and communal council delegates who will be chosen via “communal leadership in their own states”.

Candidates will be nominated by their corresponding sectors and must also have support from at least 3% of registered voters in their professional field.  

Additionally, the President announced that the National Constituent Assembly will be single-chambered and elected government officials, active army personnel, Judges, Ministers, and NEC Directors, amongst others, will be prohibited from standing.  

Once the delegates are elected, the National Constituent Assembly will be convened within a period of 72 hours.

WHY A NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY?

President Maduro, speaking to hundreds of thousands of Government supporters who took to the streets of the nation’s capital for International Workers Day 2017, explained that he would invoke Article 347 of the Constitution to trigger the Assembly, which will be responsible for re-drafting the 1999 Constitution.

***

ARTICLE 347 states: The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the purpose of transforming the State, creating a new legal order and drawing up a new Constitution.

***In his own words:

“I invoke the original constituent to achieve the peace necessary for the Republic, to defeat the fascist attempts at a coup, so that the Sovereignty of the people may impose Peace, Harmony, and a true National Dialogue.”

GROUNDS FOR THE DECISION

Over the last few weeks, our Country has been plagued with violent demonstrations initiated by the Opposition aimed at the overthrow of the constitutionally elected Government currently led by President Nicolas Maduro.

These demonstrations have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Venezuelan nationals, the destruction of State as well as private property, with the media – local, regional and international – in concert with organizations such as the OAS (under the leadership of Secretary-General Luis Almagro) and Governments (The United States of America, Columbia among others) portraying these events as ‘actions in defence of democracy’ and openly calling for the destabilization and overthrow of our Country’s Government.

The President Nicolas Maduro has consistently called for peaceful dialogue, and enlisted the support of His Holiness Pope Francis, calls which have been supported by CELAC and the ALBA group of Countries.

In December 2015, elections to the National Assembly resulted in the overwhelming victory of a coalition of opposition parties known as the Democratic Unity Table, also referred to as the MUD (Mesa de Unidad Democratica).

With a resounding 2/3 majority, this coalition of opposition parties (which is not a cohesive unit) sought to assert its authority over the other institutions of governance, focusing on the Executive Branch which is headed by President Maduro.

In January 2016, the leaders of the now Opposition-controlled National Assembly took the decision to swear-in three (3) deputies who were investigated for electoral fraud and were suspended by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.  This act of defiance placed the National Assembly in contempt, and therefore the Supreme Tribunal of Justice invalidated all its actions and decisions.

From that moment, a long and complicated process of action and reaction began between the National Assembly and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela.  

Throughout 2016, the National Assembly focused on enacting legislation with the sole purpose of politically destabilizing the country, thus generating a climate of instability amongst the population. Eleven (11) laws were presented by the General Assembly,  which exceeded the bounds of legality and were declared unconstitutional  by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

One example the eleven laws  was the “Amnesty and National Reconciliation Act”, which sought to pardon sentences of political activists convicted of the commission of crimes against humanity, possession and trafficking of weapons, drugs, terrorism, fraud, instigation to commit criminal acts, among others; dating from as far back as 1999.

Parallel to this parliamentary scenario, the fractures and divisions within the coalition of parties that make up the opposition, became public and evident, and due to this lack of unity within the MUD, the recall referendum was activated too late, and the registration for state and city council elections which should have been held in 2016, was not completed.

However, the Opposition, in concert with the anti-Government media (the majority supports the Opposition) propagated the view that the President did not want to participate in the referendum nor did he want elections to take place.

In spite of their delay, in April and May 2016, the Opposition began the first steps to start the process for the referendum, where 1% of signatures of those registered in the Electoral Registry had to be collected to activate the Recall Referendum. With this, the first stage of the activation of the process was fulfilled, what finally took place was fraudulent.  30% of the signatures collected were invalidated because more than 10,000 were of deceased persons, with more than 3,000 belonging to minors, amongst other attempts at fraud.

As a result of the claims made in different areas of the country in October 2016, the courts of five states annulled the process in their territories, until the further ruling of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

Several attempts were made to establish a dialogue between the opposition and the Government. These began in May 2016, however in June, the extremist groups began to sabotage the process of discourse with the section of the Opposition which was willing to participate.  In October the processes of dialogue began with a representative of the Vatican, personally appointed by Pope Francis.

All these attempts were in vain, because the leadership of the Opposition decided against dialogue.

While the Venezuelan Government has consistently and repeatedly tried to open avenues for dialogue, with the mediation of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Vatican, the opposition rejected overtures for a peace agreement, in order to sharpen its agenda of violence, supported by the Secretary General of the OAS, who used the OAS arena to incite Political interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, supporting the radical groups affiliated with Opposition, with the aim of overthrowing the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela firmly rejects all acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated in the country, which has resulted in the unfortunate death of more than 55 Venezuelans.  In addition, there has been destruction of infrastructure, public transport, schools, hospitals, parks and recreational facilities.  

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela continues to use the Democratic means established by the National Constitution as well as the gubernatorial elections that will be celebrated on December 10 and the participation in the National Constituent Assembly, which has already initiated discussions at the national level with all sectors,

The people and the government of Venezuela will work to resolve the existing problems and will guarantee peace for all Venezuelans by Constitutional means.  

 

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