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Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Opposition Primaries Held With Support From The National Electoral Council
By Press Release. Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S.
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S.
Saturday, Feb 11, 2012

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S.

Political parties in Venezuela are preparing for an intense electoral calendar in 2012 and 2013. On February 12, for the first time in history, several of the parties opposed to the current government will hold primaries to choose candidates for this year’s presidential race on October 7 as well as subsequent state and municipals elections (held this December 16 and next April 14, respectively). The primaries are part of an effort by the opposition to gather more votes in an attempt to challenge the coalition of forces that support President Hugo Chávez.

Often overlooked by the media is the fact that the opposition parties have asked the National Electoral Council (CNE) – the branch of the Venezuelan government that oversees elections – to run their primaries despite the fact that they have for years tried to discredit the electoral authority.


CNE support for the primaries is the result of the opposition’s requests for help with various aspects of the voting, including printing, collecting and transporting ballots.2

The CNE will also offer elections monitoring, the software used for voting and vote-tallying, and polling station infrastructure. Thanks to the CNE, one the day of the primaries, 7,691 voting booths will be made available at 3,707 polling centers established throughout the country’s 335 municipalities.

The website of the opposition coalition in charge of the primaries notes that the electoral process supported by the CNE is trustworthy. With regard to the primaries, it recognizes that “The CNE is offering technical support and facilitating the use of the voting machines, the provision of materials, and the training of elections officials.”

The president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, said that the process of organizing the opposition primaries involved an intense process of dialogue between her agency and all of the political organizations, and noted that “we began to meet with them a year in advance.”

Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, the executive secretary of the opposition coalition (called MUD, or the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), called the CNE’s support for the opposition primaries “an excellent sign of democratic institutionality in the country.”


The CNE isn’t just supporting the opposition with its primary elections, but also with elections to choose authorities within each political party. In fact, the CNE has since 2008 organized internal elections for different political parties in Venezuela, including those that support the current administration.

In July of 2011, the party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) held internal elections with support from the CNE in which Leopoldo López was chosen as National Coordinator.7 López expressed appreciation for the fact that 3,000 CNE staff members were dispatched throughout the country and 6,000 additional support staff.8 About 120,000 people participated in those internal elections.

The CNE also organized the elections to select candidates for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) for mayoral and gubernatorial races in 2008, as well as for the parliamentary elections in 2010 (for which it also assisted with the primary elections for opposition parties).

Similarly, the CNE is expected to assist the opposition political party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) in its internal elections on the last Sunday in March of 2012.


In Venezuela, elections have become an everyday affair due to their frequency, but they also have a dramatic impact on national decision-making. In this sense, it is worth highlighting not only the intense electoral calendar in recent years, but also increased rates of political participation overall.

In the last 12 years, Venezuela has held 16 different electoral processes, 13 of them at the national level. In contrast, in the forty years previous to the first victory of President Chávez, there were only 15 elections held.
More striking than the simple increase in the number of elections is the exponential improvement in the guarantees regarding the exercise of the vote and the transparency of the electoral process. According to CNE data, the massive voter registration has allowed the amount of adults not registered to vote to decline from 20 percent in 1998 to five percent in 2011.

As well, the construction of the logistical architecture for voting has allowed for an increased number of voting centers, from 8,278 in 2000 to 14,025 in 2011, and voting booths, which went from 7,000 in 2000 to 38,236 in 2011. This has allowed for a much larger number of people in the electoral registry. By December 31, 2011, there were 18,338,913 Venezuelans registered to vote, compared to just over 12 million in 2003.

Regarding electoral participation, in recent elections there has been a significant increase in levels of participation compared to in past elections. In the 2006 presidential elections, for example, 75 percent of registered voters went to the polls, while in 2000, 56.3 percent voted. In line with this tendency, the legislative elections saw 66 percent voter turnout, compared to 56.1 percent in 2000 (2005 turnout is disregarded due to an illegal boycott of parliamentary elections by the opposition).

These growing levels of participation are in accordance with the findings of the Chilean polling firm Latinobarómetro, which recently ranked Venezuela first in the region in its support for democracy, with 77 percent in favor.


Since 2003, Venezuela has undergone a drastic process of improvements to its electoral system, including updating and modernizing the electoral registry and infrastructure. Voting in Venezuela is now an entirely automated process. The electronic voting machines print out paper receipts confirming the choices of the voter, who then deposits the receipt in a ballot box. At the conclusion of voting, 53 percent of the machines are manually audited to compare the paper tickets with the results from the machines.

According to the CNE, the best way to guarantee the transparency of the voting process is to conduct vote monitoring together with representatives designated by the political parties participating in the process.


International institutions including the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union and the Carter Center have expressed confidence in Venezuela’s electoral processes and the role of the CNE.

In September 2011, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said of the 2006 elections in Venezuela, to which the OAS sent a delegation: "we had no objection. It was fair," and "[Venezuela] has a strong electoral system that is technically very good."

After the 2006 elections, the mission sent by the European Union said in its final report that the CNE "managed to create election conditions, through a policy of dialog and constant agreements with the parties, which were deemed sufficient by the opposition parties."

Meanwhile, the Carter Center, in its report on the recall referendum on August 15, 2004, wrote the following: "The Venezuelan people voted not to recall President Chávez from office, with 59 percent of the population voting for Chávez and 41 percent voting against him. It is the opinion of The Carter Center that the Aug. 15 vote clearly expressed the will of the Venezuelan electorate. The Center did not observe, and has not received, credible evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the vote."

In conclusion, the CNE has become an agent of political transformation and struggle in Venezuela and has increased citizen confidence in democracy. As the president of the CNE stated during a visit to Washington, DC, in October 2011, the system is so widely trusted and respected that "even when there have been close results, as with the referendum on constitutional reform in 2007 and the parliamentary elections in 2010, all parties have accepted and respected the results and decisions of the electoral branch."

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Source: Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - 1099 30th Street, NW - Washington, D.C. 20007 - (202) 342-2214 -