By Lucas Koerner
Philadelphia, June 29, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - In reportedly historic turnout, 3,162,400 Venezuelans voted in the internal parliamentary primaries of the governing Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that took place yesterday.
From the early hours of the morning until 10:00 at night, Venezuelans waited in line for hours for their chance to cast a ballot in all 87 circuits of the country’s 23 states.
With turnout reportedly surpassing all other primaries in the history of the PSUV, the National Electoral Council (CNE) was compelled to extend the deadline for poll closing, initially scheduled for 6:00pm, in order to accommodate those still waiting in lines.
National Assembly President and PSUV Vice-President, Diosdado Cabello, underlined the magnitude of popular participation and publically apologized, “because the number of voting centers and tables was insufficient.”
“Everywhere the common denominator has been the participation of our people,” he affirmed following the close of polls late Sunday night.
“This is an extraordinary figure, here there has never occurred anything like this," he added.
Sunday’s primaries culminate a month of campaigning by over 1,162 pre-candidates chosen by 13,600 grassroots assemblies throughout the country in April. In accordance with new rules set down by the PSUV, 50% of the candidates were under 30 years of age and 60% of candidates were were women.
Despite the quotas adopted by the PSUV for pre-candidate selection, however, on Sunday just 30% of the candidates chosen by the party's rank and file were women.
Nonetheless, the results contrasted starkly with last month’s opposition primaries, which were marred by empty voting stations and elite backroom dealmaking.
With primaries held in only 33 circuits in eleven states, the 543,723 votes accrued by the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) was reportedly surpassed by the PSUV as early as nine in the morning. In those same 33 circuits, the PSUV managed to double turnout with 1,300,000 voters crowding the polls.
Unlike the PSUV, which allowed voters to choose 100% of parliamentary candidates, the MUD leadership handpicked 75% of its 168 candidates, disillusioning many opposition militants hoping for a more inclusive, democratic process.
Similarly, the MUD selection process came under fire for elitism in both gender and class terms, with women comprising only 10 of 110 primary candidates and prospective candidates obligated to pay the equivalent of five minimum wages in order to register.
On June 25th, the CNE approved a resolution establishing that 50% of candidates for the National Assembly elections from both the PSUV and the MUD must be women. The announcement has left a question mark hanging over whether or not another set of primaries will have to be organised by the MUD, which hit out at the resolution as "unconstitutional". So far, it appears that both the opposition and the ruling party have failed to meet the quota.
The candidates chosen by the bases of the PSUV yesterday will compete for 168 National Assembly seats in the general election on December 6, which will be monitored by a delegation from the Union of South American States (UNASUR).
While international commentators have predicted that upcoming elections will see a decisive rout for the PSUV, a recent study by the private polling firm Hinterlaces has found that approximately 62% of Venezuelans prefer the socialist party to continue governing.
Despite consistent refusal to recognize its legitimacy on the part of the opposition, the United States, and the corporate media, Venezuela’s electoral system has been internationally acclaimed for its fairness and fail-safe precision, celebrated by Jimmy Carter has the “best in the world”.
Voters’ Privacy Guaranteed
Following the primary election results, rightwing newspaper La Patilla caused controversy by reporting that President Nicolas Maduro allegedly possesses a list of “who voted and who didn’t” in the parliamentary primaries this past Sunday, implying that the socialist government is violating the privacy rights of its citizens.
The news story failed, however, to clarify that Sunday’s primary is an internal election, such that the PSUV has access to its own electoral roll, detailing who voted and who abstained.
The newspaper took the comments from a televised speech in which Maduro stated that the voter list would be used to encourage non-voters to participate in the upcoming election this December.
“We are beginning the work for December 6, and we are going to have the lists for the candidates to call on people to vote and organize for victory.”
In response to La Patilla and other rightwing news media who inferred malicious intent from the President’s remarks, the principal rector of the CNE, Socorro Hernandez, indicated that while the PSUV does have access to a list detailing who voted and who did not, for whom they voted remains a secret.
“Neither the CNE nor anybody can know who voted for whom, because the software makes it impossible.”
Socorro went on to note that the PSUV is, nevertheless, within its rights to request the list of who voted and who abstained, adding that the MUD made an identical request in the context of its primary last month.
“The MUD [in its primaries], requested the electoral roll of who voted in that election. For whom they voted is another question. Just like the PSUV. But in no case has any organization asked for the latter information".