Last night, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, issued a ruling in which it altered the requirements of the controversial political party re-certification process that has been underway since March. The ruling is already been decried as benefiting the Gran Polo Patriotico [Great Patriotic Caucus], which is headed by the ruling PSUV party.

The re-certification process required every political party in the country to collect signatures from at least 0.5% of registered voters in 12 of the country’s states in order to remain a recognized political party. The signatures could only be collected over a period of two days. The onerous system was loudly condemned by parties from across the political spectrum, even those allied with the PSUV, since it appeared to have been deliberately designed to be “an unwinnable race”.

Last night’s TSJ ruling states that parties can count the votes they won in the 2015 parliamentary elections towards their 0.5% minimum, instead of having to collect signatures from supporters. This means that parties that won votes from more than 0.5% of registered voters in at least 12 states during the 2015 parliamentary elections have effectively already been re-certified.

The ruling comes at an awkward time, as the process has already been underway for nearly two months, and hundreds of thousands of voters have already signed for their party of choice.

The same ruling calls on the Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council] (CNE), the organization in charge of electoral processes, to establish a new “electoral schedule”, although it is not entirely clear what the Court means by this. Presumably, the instruction is for the CNE to re-start the process, further delaying the regional elections that should have taken place last year but were unceremoniously postponed indefinitely.

Election Expert: Decision Favours Regime

Eugenio Martinez, a journalist and expert on electoral matters, criticized the TSJ’s ruling for only benefiting the PSUV and its allied parties.

Martinez pointed out that during the 2015 parliamentary elections, the opposition ran under a unified ticket, the Mesa de la Unidad Demcocratica (MUD), which is made up of approximately thirty individual political parties. Running under a unified ticket means that voters cast their ballots for the MUD ticket, not for individual opposition parties.

For example, a voter in Petare, Caracas who cast her ballot for Miguel Pizarro would have voted for the MUD ticket in her district, not for Primero Justicia, which is the party to which Pizarro belongs.

On the other hand, Martinez points out, parties allied to the PSUV tended not to run under a single, unified ticket.

The ruling puts virtually every opposition party in the country in the strange position of having won the 2015 parliamentary elections without actually earning any votes individually, since every vote for the opposition was a vote for the MUD. As a result of yesterday’s ruling, no opposition party can be automatically re-certified by the votes that it won in 2015 because as far as the CNE is concerned, no opposition party actually won any votes: the MUD did.

Martinez pointed out that the ruling is likely to benefit the Communist Party of Venezuela as well as the Redes and Tupamaros parties, all allied with the PSUV, because they all earned votes as individual parties in 2015.

Venezuela Files Formal Paperwork, Begins OAS Withdrawal

Venezuela filed its official withdrawal paperwork with the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday, becoming the first nation in the organization’s history to leave the organization. The formal request came via Carmen Velasquez, a Venezuelan representative at the OAS, who triggered the 24-month withdrawal process yesterday.

Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS is complicated not only by the 24-month lead-up to the actual exit, but also because the move to leave the organization would most definitely be reversed by an opposition win in the presidential elections scheduled for next year.

Secretary General Luis Almagro confirmed the start of the withdrawal period yesterday by saying:

We have received a note from the Venezuelan mission requesting its withdrawal from the OAS. We stress that leaving the OAS is not the solution: re-democratizing the country is.

While Maduro’s decision to leave the OAS is likely motivated by the organization’s harsh stance against his authoritarian regime and continued systemic human rights abuses against political dissenters, Maduro has said that the real reason for leaving is because the OAS “embezzled” money to attack Venezuela. He has not provided any evidence for his claim.

Upon receiving the request in paper form from Velasquez before a group of reporters, Almagro wrote the following note on the paper:

Received and forwarded to the secretary of Legal Affairs. I hope that democracy is the solution, not withdrawal.

Venezuela owes the OAS $8.7 million in dues and other payments which every member state must pay the OAS every year. However, Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the organization, as already signaled that Venezuela will not pay the money.

At a press conference in New York City yesterday, Moncada told reporters:

You want us to pay the people who are humiliating us? What money are they talking about? They say we owe money. The debt is so that they can humiliate us? I don’t understand.

MUD Calls for “Double” March on May 1

The called on Venezuelans today to participate in a “double” protest on May 1 against the Maduro regime in Caracas. Each demonstration will have a different goal, with one aiming to march to the offices of the TSJ and the other to the offices of the CNE.

The announcement was made by National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara earlier today, who said that one concentration will meat on the Victoria venue in Caracas’ west end, while the other will meet on the Francisco de Miranda avenue.

Guevara hopes that the dual protest, which takes place roughly at the one-month mark of this latest round of widespread protests in Venezuela, will signal to the Maduro regime that the peoples’ will to continue to demonstrate has not been exhausted:

On May 1st we will show that after a month of resistance, we still have strength to continue to move forward. Let May 1 be a testament of a people who have refused to surrender.

On the possibility that Venezuelans are suffering from protest fatigue given the near daily violent confrontations between opposition supporters and regime forces, Guevara said:

We’ve talked about resistance. We’ve said that he who tires, loses. This is the moment when our resistance is tested.

Guevara also said:

We’ve made a promise [to murdered protesters]. They died [fighting for] liberty, so we do not have the right to grow tired.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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