The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), which is the body that oversees elections in the country, made a pair of announcements today on the constituent assembly process and long-awaited regional elections.
The CNE announced today that regional elections will take place on December 10, one full year after they were legally required to take place. The elections for governors, state assemblies and mayors were unceremoniously postponed without any explanation in mid-October of last year. At the time, the CNE promised that the elections would take place before July of 2017.
The announcement, which was made by CNE head Tibisay Lucena, included a statement stressing that the party renewal process that took place earlier this year has yet to be completed, meaning that it is not yet known which political parties will be allowed to run in the regional elections.
Today’s announcement from Lucena marks the first time since the October postponement that Venezuela’s electoral body has spoken on the regional elections. The fact that the elections did not take place last year as mandated by the Constitution means that anyone sitting in the office of mayor, governor or state legislator is serving outside of the term limits set out by law.
CNE Also Announces Constituent Assembly Elections for July
At the same time, Lucena explained that the election for constituent assembly members will take place at the end of July. Individuals elected to be part of the constituent assembly will be tasked with creating a new constitution for the country, a move which would put an end to the 1999 Constitution and the Fifth Republic.
Lucena said that the constituent assembly process would give “hope to those of us who want peace and progress in Venezuela”.
Details on the Constituent Assembly Emerge
During a speech at a regime event in Caracas today, Maduro gave some details on the “communal constituent assembly”, a mechanism he called “our path to peace”.
Maduro said that the assembly would be made up of 540 individuals. The statement is consistent with an estimate of “approximately 500” individuals that Maduro gave on May 1 when he first announced the measure.
Of those 540 assembly members, 364 will be elected from each of the country’s municipalities, and a further eight will be elected by Venezuela’s indigenous peoples. The municipal representatives will be elected proportionally, meaning that a highly-populated state like Zulia will get to elect 22 representatives, while a smaller state like Vargas will only get to elect two.
The remaining 176 assembly members will be elected through “social sectors”, which are blocks of voters that are grouped according to a common characteristic. For example, workers, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, students, and pensioners all belong to their own distinctive “social sector”, and each will be allowed to elect a set number of representatives. Candidates will only be allowed to run in one sector, meaning that a student who is also a farmer must choose one of the two sectors in which to run.
Do you want bullets or votes? Let’s have elections right now, secret and direct. Elections for the constituent [assembly].
Opposition observers were quick to point out that the regime event in Caracas appears to have been poorly attended, a sign of Maduro’s dwindling support. The image below shows Maduro speaking to the crowd of supporters near the Miraflores Palace with a section of the stands empty:
Only 8% support Maduro’s constituent [assembly] fraud. This image speakers for itself, they couldn’t even fill the stands in the Miraflores yard.
Survey Reveals 73% Oppose Constituent Assembly, Only 18% Believe Venezuela is a Democracy
The Datincorp polling firm released the results of a comprehensive survey on politics in Venezuela today. The results of the survey demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans do not want a constituent assembly to take place, and that similar numbers disapprove of Maduro’s term as president.
- When it comes to the constituent assembly, respondents were asked “Do you support this initiative?”. 73% answered “no”, while only 21% answered “yes”.
- When asked their general opinion on Maduro’s tenure as president, 78% qualified it as negative.
- When asked, “In your opinion, in Venezuela there is a…”, 49% answered “dictatorship” and 18% answered “democracy”. 30% answered “a mix of both”.
- 53% believe that “general elections, including for the office of President of the Republic” are the solution to the crisis affecting the country. Only 12% believe that the solution is “for Maduro to continue to govern”.
The survey had a sample size of 1,199 registered voters, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.8% and a confidence level of 95%. The full survey can be found here, in Spanish.
Defiant National Assembly Calls Invokes Rebellion Article Against Constituent Assembly
The National Assembly approved a motion today calling for a national referendum to ask the Venezuelan people if they do in fact want a constituent assembly to form. The call for the referendum adheres to article 347 of the Constitution, which states that any constituent assembly process must first be approved via a plebiscite.
National Assembly president Julio Borges explained the legislature’s reasoning for the measure by saying:
We want the people to unify this fractured country through a vote. We want Venezuela to have the last word about how to build a different future. Nicolas Maduro, far from fixing [the country], has instead intensified the coup d’etat.
National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara said that if Maduro continues to push for the constituent assembly through illegal means as he has done so far, Venezuelans should invoke article 350 of the Constituent en masse and openly rebel against the Maduro regime:
And if the dictatorship continues to ignore the people’s right to refuse to take part in this fraud [the constituent assembly], we will begin civil disobedience through article 350 of the Constitution. This will allow us to call people onto the streets indefinitely until we achieve change.
Article 350 of the Constitution grants Venezuelans the right to ignore any authority that violates democracy and/or human rights. The article reads:
Article 350: The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights.
Supreme Court Magistrates Break Ranks, Speak Out Against Regime
Supreme Court magistrates Marisela Godoy and Danilo Antonio Mojica Monsalvo broke ranks with the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, by speaking out publicly against Maduro’s constituent assembly for the first time today.
Godoy and Mojica both sit on the TSJ’s Civil Cassation Chamber, which has the last word on civil cases in Venezuela. They become the first and only magistrates to speak in public against the Maduro regime.
Godoy’s statement on the matter came during an interview with journalist Nelson Bocaranda. During the interview, Godoy pointed out that Maduro’s insistence on imposing the constituent assembly on Venezuela rather than holding a referendum on the matter is not only illegal, but also contrary to Hugo Chavez’s wishes. Godony said:
[The regime is] throwing into the garbage Hugo Chavez’s phrase: “We cannot change neither a comma nor a letter in the Constitution without asking the people”.
Godoy also said that the PSUV officials who want to create a new constitution represent a “minuscule group” in Venezuela, and called on Maduro to stop violently repressing opposition protests.
Mojica voiced his disagreement with the measure by releasing a video in which he criticized Maduro for pushing for the creation of a Constituent Assembly, a move he called “spurious” and fraught with pitfalls.
During the video, Mojica stressed that any move towards a constituent assembly had to be put to a referendum vote, as stated in article 347 of the Constitution. However, Maduro has foregone a referendum vote on the matter, and has instead decreed that the constituent assembly will take place. The move is part of the reason why daily nationwide protests continue to shake Venezuela.
Most damming is Mojica’s assertion that even if the constituent assembly were to take place as outlined in Venezuela law, the measure would not provide a solution to the crisis afflicting the country: only “immediate elections” can do so, according to the magistrate. Mojica also criticized the regime for its violent repression of opposition protests, saying that “history will not forgive” those who remain silent on the matter.
Below, Mojica’s video along with my translation:
Mojica: Mr. Nicolas Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: I, Danilo Mojico Monsalvo, magistrate on the Chamber of Civil Cassation at the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, speak to you through this means with all due respect given your title as outlined in article 57 of the Constitution [freedom of expression] and article 7 of the Ethical Code for Judges, published in the Gaceta Oficial 39.236 dated August 6 2009.
I am motivated by a judicial and moral imperative to make my position on your call for a constituent assembly known to you. I do this also to add another idea to the debate that is currently taking place on this issue. Before starting, I must say that the [judge’s robes] and the Venezuelan coat of arms that protect me today first of all symbolize my goal, which is none other than to fully obey the constitution, and second of all are symbols of justice [sic].
Now, it is necessary to point out that attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz pointed out on May 17 of this year that the 1999 Constituent was created by a national constituent assembly that was convened through a referendum, and was ratified through a referendum. This is the mechanism of direct democracy through which citizens exercise their right to suffrage in order to voice their opinion on the creation of a constituent [assembly] or the adoption of a new constitution. Without this, the constituent [assembly] would be absolutely spurious, since it would be the fruit of a poisonous tree. This is a legal metaphor used in order to describe something that is done outside of the framework of the constitution, since to do so [to hold a constituent assembly without first holding a referendum] would compromise and annihilate national sovereignty.
This is risky bet, since what is at stake is the structure of the government and peace in society, given the political commotion that the country is living through. I am reminded of our liberator Simon Bolivar when he replied on October 14 1826 to a matter by Santander on political reforms in Colombia. Bolivar did not see a solution to the political problems in Colombia but to present the people with a great plebiscite on fundamental changes to the political regime at the time. This is what he said: “In one word, my dear general–and I know of no better way to do this–than to return to the people their inherent sovereignty to re-do their social contract. You might say that this is illegitimate, but I wonder what crime is committed by deferring to the origin of law so that it can remedy a problem that afflicts the people, and that only the people understand. ”
However, I must point out just as the attorney general did, that convening a constituent assembly is not the solution to the crisis affecting the country. Mr. President: think hard on this. The graves of our youth surround Venezuela. Enough with the loss of innocent life. History will not forgive those of us who do not act in the interest of the nation. We find ourselves in the midst of a crisis of such magnitude that it cannot be solved by a constituent assembly, nor with police or military repression of street protests. This is the time of big decisions, and it is your duty to carry out the will of the people and hold elections immediately.
As a result, I call on you to take on a republican spirit that adheres to the constitution in honour of the great fatherland that we all want to build.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
With his comments today, Mojica becomes the only supreme court magistrate to criticize the Maduro regime openly. He joins attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz in providing a critical voice against the regime from inside one of its own institutions.
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