The largest parties of the beleaguered Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc all announced today that they would abstain from participating in the December municipal elections. Four of the bloc’s main parties–Primero Justicia (PJ), Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP), La Causa R (LCR), and Accion Democratica (AD)–all voiced their intention to not participate in the December election given what they considered to be an established fact: that the Maduro regime is fully in control of Venezuela’s electoral system.
The secretary general of PJ, Tomas Guanipa, was unequivocal in stating the party’s stance towards the December vote:
When we say that PJ will not participate in the municipal [elections], it’s because we’re not going to participate in the municipal [elections].
Guanipa went further, and gave a warning to any member of the party who might be thinking about participating in the elections despite the party’s official stance:
Any [member] of Primero Justicia who registers to run in the municipal [elections] will cease being a member of the party.
During the same press conference, Guanipa said that he believes that Maduro is attempting to rush to the municipal elections in order to have the presidential election as soon as possible. The goal of the rush, Guanipa speculated, is to catch the opposition in a moment of weakness so that it does not have the time to properly organize and run a single candidate against Maduro.
PJ’s announcement coincided with a similar one from the ABP party. During a press conference this afternoon, the party’s president–Richard Blanco–told reporters that ABP would abstain from the December elections. Blanco announced the decision by saying:
From ABP, we ratify our struggle for democracy in our country. We remain firm. We will not allow ourselves to be led to an unconstitutional process as proposed by the illegitimate National Constituent Assembly.
With the comment, Blanco was referencing the fact that it was the National Constituent Assembly that set the date for the municipal elections. The opposition considers the body illegitimate given the overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting that the vote that selected its members was fraudulent.
Blanco said that participating in the municipal elections given the compromised state of the country’s electoral system would be a “shocking” mistake.
Andres Velasquez of LCR said during his press conference that the party would not participate in the December vote, but clarified that it would participate in a presidential election when and if it took place. Velasquez said that the municipal elections were “an ambush” being set up by the Maduro regime to deal yet another blow to the country’s democracy.
AD’s announcement came via the Twitter account of its leader, Henry Ramos Allup, who said in a string of tweets:
1/7 AD’s struggle for democracy has been historic, and thanks to the struggle of our founders we established it in 1945.
2/7 During this regime, we have defended the vote and have participated [in elections] despite enormous institutional disadvantages and disqualifications.
3/7 The Venezuelan case is not unique. Throughout the world, different dictatorships have been removed by the people exercising and defending the right to vote.
4/7 We’ve always advocated for the electoral path. Those who say otherwise have never explained what the alternative is.
5/7 Following conversations among the parties of the [MUD], we have determined that it is not viable to participate in the [municipal] elections.
6/7 Any AD member who runs does so against the stance of the party, and will remove themselves from the party as established in our charter.
7/7 Despite our decision to not participate in these elections, we will continue to fight as one to improve the electoral conditions.
The coordinated announcements from the five parties are a breath of fresh air for the MUD, which is still reeling from its defeat in the October 15 gubernatorial election. The fallout from the election seemed to be pushing the bloc to the edge of annihilation, as infighting among its members parties bubbled to the surface and dominated national news for all of last week.
VP Admits “Errors”, Lays Out Next Steps
Voluntad Popular (VP) issued a statement today admitting that the party had made mistakes over the past presumably in its leadership role of the country’s opposition forces, and set a path forward for itself and for the country. The statement came via Freddy Guevara, the party’s national coordinator, who read it to reporters during a press conference this afternoon.
Below, my translation of the statement as it appeared in El Nacional:
- We recognize as a party and as its leaders that we have made mistakes and that we have a shared responsibility by action or omission in errors made by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (…) We ratify our promise to our people that we will never stop fighting for change in Venezuela.
- The only goal of our struggle is to fight the dictatorship that is responsible for the hunger, the crisis and all of the difficulties that afflict Venezuelans. And, to overcome this emergency, we must find a way out of this dictatorship.
- We declare that there are no electoral nor political conditions to participate in the municipal elections that have been convened by the regime (…) We call on the other parties from [the MUD] to not participate, either. None of our members can take part in this process. If one of our members [runs in the elections], they will be removed [from the party].
- We stress the urgent necessity with which we must find an electoral solution to this serious crisis, something which is impeded today by the electoral system created by the dictatorship. We must fight to change these current conditions.
- We call for the construction of a new national [bloc] with the following objectives: a) finding a way out of the dictatorship, not legitimize it; b) denounce the [Constituent Assembly]; c) the carrying out of free elections; d) to not validate the dictatorship by taking part in fraudulent elections; e) achieve change and liberty in every field; f) ensure [the maintenance of] international pressure [on the regime]; g) set clear rules for this struggle, and h) incorporation of social sectors into this bloc.
- [We call for the opposition to] hold primary elections among its member parties to select a presidential candidate.
- [We call on] the Venezuelan people to build a great national and international movement to ensure free presidential elections and to find a solution to the crisis that is affecting the country.
The VP party is headed by Leopoldo Lopez, arguably the country’s most popular opposition leader and most famous political prisoner. However, the party’s credibility suffered a serious hit at the end of the protests of this year, since it was instrumental in arguing that street demonstrations alone could stop the July 30 Constituent Assembly vote and bring an end to the Maduro dictatorship.
In late July, Guevara personally advertised “Zero Hour”, the name given to a civil disobedience campaign that was set to involve a national strike and a long-rumoured march to the Miraflores Palace. When the Constituent Assembly vote took place despite the opposition protests, the “Zero Hour” plan simply fizzled out, leaving many opposition supporters frustrated and feeling betrayed by their leaders.
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