The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, made a rare public appearance today to comment on the upcoming presidential election, which is scheduled to take place on April 22. Lucena–whose CNE is tasked with organizing and carrying out elections–made a series announcements regarding what Venezuelans can expect that day should they decide to participate in the vote.
Lucena made a total of six announcements. While the majority were commitments to follow electoral law in order to allow for a free and fair election, Lucena also announced that CNE would ask the United Nations to participate in the election in the capacity of international observer. Lucena’s six announces are outlined below:
- The CNE will formally request that the United Nations provide a team of election obrservers to monitor the April 22 presidential election.
- The CNE will commit to allowing national and foreign press outlets access to the vote.
- Voting centres will return to their original locations, after many were moved–some at the last minute–during the regional elections of last year, affecting at least 715,000 voters.
- The CNE will commit to carrying out “all of the technical audits” required by electoral law to ensure the electoral system’s integrity.
- Voting centre volunteers will be selected according to electoral law, and will be notified in time about their selection.
- The electoral roll will remain open for Venezuelans who wish to register to vote until tonight for Venezuelans wishing to register in the country, and until February 25 for Venezuelans wishing to register abroad.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the United Nations, said today that the organization would consider taking part in the April 22 presidential vote as an observer, but that as of yet it “has not yet received a formal request” to do so.
Lucena, a staunch and open supporter of the Maduro regime, used to be a relatively common fixture on Venezuelan televisions until recently, as she often appeared at regime events and spoke on electoral matters with frequency. She has made fewer and fewer public appearances in recent months, fueling speculation that she may be battling a serious illness.
Cabello Proposes Early Presidential Election, Legislative Election on Same Day
PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello announced this morning during a television interview that he was going to ask the Constituent Assembly to move the April 22 election forward, and that it dictate that an election for the National Assembly take place on the same day. Cabello made the announcement by saying:
I am going to bring a proposal to the [Constituent] Assembly in the coming days–I’m just finishing it up–that will make it so that instead of having just a presidential election, will will have elections for the National Assembly at the same time.
The National Assembly term ends in 2021, meaning that the next parliamentary election is not supposed to take place until 2020.
Cabello explained that the reason why he wants early legislative elections is because he thinks that there is a “political vacuum” at the National Assembly, which to him means that “the legislative branch does not exist in Venezuela”.
Cabello explained that his decision was also motivated by the fact that he does not understand why legislative and presidential terms are out of sync. He said:
The proposal will be for joint elections, because one of the things happening here that some of us do not understand is that sometimes you elect a president, and [that] has a term, and a [National] Assembly which has another term. So there is a time when they overlap, but they do not coincide.
Cabello did not explain why he thinks that presidential and legislative terms should coincide, or why he considers this to be an issue now, twenty years after chavismo came to power.
The National Assembly is currently under the control of the opposition bloc, after Venezuelans voted overwhelmingly to reject the ruling PSUV party in the 2015 election. Since losing the legislature, the PSUV has worked tirelessly to undermine it as an institution, going as far as to neutralizing it through the Supreme Court. In response to losing the legislature, the PSUV created its own version of the body–the Constituent Assembly–and today uses it to legislative.
During the same interview, Cabello gave a tepid endorsement of his own measure, saying:
I think that it would be for the good of the country, you know. Really.
During her press conference, Lucena was asked by reporters if she was aware of Cabello’s planned request to move the date of the presidential election forward and to also conduct the legislative vote on the same day. Lucena replied:
This is a hypothetical situation. We have not received official word on this, and we are working towards an election that will take place on April 22.
National Assembly Responds to Cabello Threat
The president of the National Assembly, Omar Barboza, responded this afternoon to Cabello’s threat to have the body dissolved early by issuing a defiant statement, saying:
We are telling the people of Venezuela that this National Assembly was elected legitimately will not yield before threats nor attempts to put into effect illegitimate solutions.
Deputy Angel Medina also issued a response to Cabello’s threat, saying:
The proposal by Diosdado Cabello is based on the same [logic] deployed by a government in a country where there are no rules, or they are changed from one moment to the next. The Constituent Assembly was born in order to dismantle the Constitution and law. Under the argument that [we are] in contempt and that [we are] doing nothing, they insist in their attacks against the Assembly, which is the trench from which we fight. [The Supreme Court] has taken away our legislative powers. This is a trench from which we work to defend the interests of the people.
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