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Venezuela's new Electoral Board (CNE)

By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views

22.01.05 | There is a piece of news that I have not dealt with yet, and which is of outmost importance: the high court (TSJ) has filled the two vacancies of the CNE. Now, the once solid 3 to 2 majority for Chavez has become a rock hard 4 to 1 majority. Not to mention that a "clean up" of the CNE personnel has pretty much left the opposition with no influence left in that organism, not even a watch dog.

Veneconomy editorial on Friday is a good summary and I will just post it adding a few footnotes for further explanations for those interested. Then my own comments.

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A revamped CNE

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice has, once again, awarded itself powers to appoint the Board of Directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE)[1]. This is a totally arbitrary decision and a clear violation of the Constitution of the Republic.It could be argued that, when the Constitutional Chamber of the TSJ first took upon itself to appoint the members of the CNE’s Board of Directors in July 2003, there was some justification for it proceeding in this manner. The measure, constitutionally doubtful, was based on the alleged “legislative vacuum” caused by the fact that, after one year of sterile debate, the National Assembly had not appointed the CNE Board as stipulated in the Constitution. The board appointed on that occasion seemed, initially, to have a certain balance in terms of political groupings. Three to two in favor of the government side seemed acceptable to the general public and the opposition. But the unilateral, autocratic decisions taken by the government’s representatives in connection with the elections held in 2004 demonstrated how wrong this perception was. The results are public knowledge.

This time, the TSJ, now with a converted government majority [2] confiscated a right that, by law, corresponds to the National Assembly and, without giving the parliamentarians the right to complain, appointed the new CNE Board.This decision by the Supreme Court is illegal on three counts.

First, it is a decision that cannot be appealed; the appointments were made by the Constitutional Chamber, the court to which anyone wishing to bring an appeal against them would have resorted. [3]

The second is that it did not respect the right of the alternate members to opt for the vacancies left by the resignations of Ezequiel Zamora (2004) and Francisco Carrasquero (2005), which would have been the correct thing legally. [4]

And third, the appointment of Oscar León Uzcátegui, who, since he was member of the Electoral Nominations Committee, is disqualified to sit on the CNE Board according to the rules laid down by the National Assembly. In response to the criticisms over the selection of León, Justice Iván Rincón referred to the full autonomy enjoyed by the Chamber that made it, which, as he understands it, frees the Chamber from the National Assembly’s guidelines. In other words, he can do as he pleases.

The new CNE is now grotesquely tilted in favor of the government. It has four members who toe the government line and one who is inclined to favor the opposition, and the government has control over all the alternate members. The sole exception is Sobella Mejías, who is now vice-chairperson of the board. However, she was removed as chairperson of the Civil and Electoral Roll Committee, one of the most important posts in any elections.Is there still anyone naive enough to believe that there will be open, transparent elections in Venezuela from now on?

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[1] Normally the 5 rectors should have been elected by a two third majority of the National Assembly. Chavismo unable to reach an agreement left the TSJ supply a "constitutional default", the only way it would be certain of a majority in the CNE as the TSJ was already sold out to chavismo.

[2] The new high court law has allowed for an unconstitutional packing of the court which ensures a safe and solid majority in every single chamber of the high court. All of the new 12 justices are known for their links, when not devotion, to chavismo and El Supremo; though most are not known their special judicial skills.

[3] One of the new justices, Carrasquero was the official president of the CNE. Now as a justice he can make sure that any appeal against his actions during his CNE tenure will have a favorable issue to his persona, and his master. Not to mention that as a justice he does not even need to give press conferences.

[4] Thus were eliminated the few critical voices that were left, such as Miryiam Kornblith who was the victim of false xenophobic accusations, for not using stronger terms due to her ethnic background.

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The conclusion of the editorial is exact. There is no way that fair elections can take place in Venezuela. Not only now we are sure, more than ever, that the new CNE will not criticize the strong arm tactics of Chavez when he campaigns, even less ask where the funds come from, but we also know that all possible cheating mechanisms will be put in place on voting day.

Conclusions must be taken by the actors.

Sobella Mejias. She was useless during the Recall Election. When Zamora quit, her inability to effect anything became pathetic. Now with a castrated vice-presidency as a consolation prize what could she do? It is time for her to take the appropriate decision and resign with a strong statement. But she will not do it. She is an adeca, and adecos cling to any parcel of power, as ridiculous as it might be. She will remain there because she gets a paycheck, not for the love of the people. She will become a pathetic figure and will end up worth of contempt.

The opposition leadership. Three electoral process are to be held this year. The opposition should do a considerable soul searching and wonder about the practicality of running in any Venezuelan election. And if they decided to do so they should be ready to fight and resort to energetic resistance. If they do no have the stomach for it, if they do not show resolve, then the disaster of October 31 2004 will be a child's game as even people like me will not even bother to figure out who is running. It would be good for them to remember the words of Churchill which I paraphrase "you prefered humiliating concessions to avoid electoral defeat in June-July 2004 instead of standing up; you got both humiliation and defeat in August and October 2004". The electorate will not have forgotten.

And two final observation on .

The TSJ. With that decision now we know that there is nothing for civility and respect to be sought your way. Justice *might* be given when it does not cross the interests of the regime. For the amateur historians among the TSJ: history shows that soon everything crosses the interest of such regimes. Your future is in a report that will someday be made, just as it was made and recently made public on the justices that allowed Pinochet to do as he pleased. Reckoning always come.

Jorge Rodriguez, the new CNE president. This abject personage is the same one who threatened to sue anyone who even dared to mention the word fraud. Yet his track record of deviance and publicly exposed lies through 2003 and 2004 has made him the least trustworthy CNE rector, a shrink visibly in need of a shrink. His actions, arrogance, contempt for all, including some from his side, make one wonder if he is not some tropical Quisling. I personally have no doubt that Jorge Rodriguez is one of the most morally corrupt character of the present political class. And the competition is tough.

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