Tuesday, 1 January 2008
by Kiraz Janicke, Caracas from Green Left Weekly 11 June 2008 In a massive show of support for the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - established to unite the mass movement that supports the Bolivarian revolution led by President Hugo Chavez - on June 1 some 2.5 million PSUV members participated in an historic process of electing candidates for the upcoming regional elections in November. Polling was extended to 9pm in the majority of states as thousands of PSUV members queued to exercise their right to vote in the elections which were monitored by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The full list of candidates elected to run for the 22 governors and 328 mayors were announced on June 4. "It doubled our initial expectations, the participation has been massive, much more than what we had hoped for", PSUV national executive member Vanessa Davies announced to a late-night press conference on June 1. "We are happy and proud of our members. We have complied with the requirements of elections by the grassroots. We have followed through with the people and the constitution", she added. Implementing democracy The Bolivarian Constitution adopted through popular referendum in 1999 requires all political parties to hold democratic elections for leadership positions and candidates. So far, the PSUV is the only political party in Venezuela to meet this requirement. Chavez, who cast his vote at the Manuel Antonio Fajardo Technical School in Barrio 23 de Enero, classified the PSUV elections as "truly historic" and "without precedent in the political history of Venezuela". "This internal process has impacted on the entire country and the collective morale. It is a grand example of how to construct true democracy, with debates and discussion, with some problems, but a great capacity to overcome these", Chavez said. He called on "all political parties, in the revolutionary camp as well as in the opposition and any other political movement", to follow the example of the PSUV. However, the president argued, a revolutionary party cannot have winning elections as its only objective, "The objective is to ensure the permanence and advance of the revolution". Chavez called for a "war to death" against corruption, cronyism, bureaucratism and inefficiency and for the re-launch of the "socialist plan", which he initiated at the beginning of 2007. "We need mayors and governors who will undertake the task, together with the people, to work for the construction of socialism from below on every street corner, every municipality, in every state", he emphasised. Those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes, or 15 percent more votes than the second highest pre-candidate, passed over to automatically be the official PSUV candidates in the regional elections. In line with a decision by a national assembly of PSUV delegates on May 9, in those eight states where no pre-candidate achieved a majority or the required winning margin, the national leadership of the PSUV will select a candidate from the top three based on a range of criteria, including "revolutionary commitment" and "ethics". In eight states and 134 municipalities, none of the pre-candidates met the requirement for automatic nomination. The internal party nomination process was monitored by 62 international observers and in large part occurred in a climate of normality. However, in some instances polling was marred by reports of some pre-candidates wielding undue influence in order to determine the outcome of the vote. As thousands of PSUV members celebrated on the night of June 1, PSUV leader Jorge Rodriguez warned the opposition and "the lackeys of imperialism here in Venezuela" that they had better get ready for the November elections because, "We're going all out to win the local and regional spaces". Support for Chavez According to the results of a recent survey by private opposition-oriented polling firm, Keller & Associates, the pro-Chavez movement counts on 57% support nationally. The same poll showed 28% support for a united opposition. The results were announced by journalist and former vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel on June 1 during his weekly program Jose Vicente Today on the private television station Televen. Keller & Associates is a firm with a "known anti-Chavez position", Rangel pointed out. Other surveys carried out by the same firm over the past week indicate that support for "Chavismo" is growing throughout the whole country, while support for the opposition is declining.