VENEZUELA: IS THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COUNCIL CONTROLLED BY THE EXECUTIVE?
Report from Sumate.org
1. The new National Electoral Council (CNE), appointed in July 2000 by the Constituent Assembly's Legislative Commission, was entrusted with organizing the elections that would be held later that year to elect all authorities, including the president, governors, mayors, local officials and members of the National Assembly, in accordance with the new 1999 Constitution.
2. The People's Advocate, Dilia Parra, questioned the legitimacy of the new CNE, as well as its provisional character, and petitioned the Supreme Court of Justice to declare invalid the new CNE. However, the Court rejected her petition, ratified the Legislative Commission's decision and approved the Electoral Statute for Public Powers that would regulate only the above mentioned elections, as the Basic Voting Law then in force did not envision some of the positions that were to be filled through the elections nor did it include provisions for the re-legitimization of other posts, including the Presidency.
3. This CNE was never ratified by the National Assembly elected in the year 2000. Nevertheless, it carried out functions until a group of pro-government congressmen requested it be declared invalid when the CNE decided to carry out a referendum on the President of the Republic.
4. The Supreme Court of Justice's Electoral Chamber suspended the referendum and ordered the CNE to abstain from organizing any type of election until the National Assembly nominated a new CNE. Thus, during more than six months, the Supreme Court of Justice denied all Venezuelans their constitutional right to vote.
5. When it became evident that the National Assembly would not reach a consensus regarding the election of a new CNE, on August 25, 2003 , the Supreme Court of Justice argued neglect of legislative duties and proceeded to appoint a new CNE on August 25, 2003. However it went even further, appointing as well the CNE's Secretary and Legal Council..
6. The selection of the new CNE's members violated Article 296 of the Constitution and Article 9.3 of the Basic Law of the Electoral Power (LOPE), which establishes that the members of the CNE must be politically independent. These articles dictate that the CNE must be comprised of five members not belonging to any political organization. However, following its rule on legislative neglect, the Supreme Court of Justice proceeded to appoint the new CNE's members, in consultation with the political parties.
7. Following the resignation of the CNE's President and Vice-President, on January 20, 2005 , the Supreme Court designated, once again, a new, largely pro-government CNE (4 to 1), pre-emptying the National Assembly's right, under the Constitution, to appoint the members of the CNE. Later, the National Assembly ratified the Supreme Court's decision, amidst strong protest by the opposition.
8. By appointing the new leadership of the CNE the Supreme Court violated Article 296 of the Constitution and Article 13 of the LOPE which reads that “Deputies shall replace the corresponding electoral rectors when he or she is temporarily or permanently absent”. The deputies of each of the CNE's members, all designated according to the rules, were never allowed to take over the duties of those they were appointed to replace.
9. The CNE that emerged from such manipulations is illegitimate not only because it was appointed by a body, the Supreme Court, that has no authority to do so, but also because it repeatedly violates the Constitution and the Basic Law on Political Voting and Participation by not examining the fraud accusations brought forth following the 2004 elections. Finally, it must be stressed that four of the CNE's five members – Jorge Rodriguez, Oscar Battaglini, Tibisay Lucena and Oscar León Uzcategui – are openly pro-government.
10. The CNE's pro-government's leaning became openly apparent when that body allowed the Comando Maisanta, the President's campaign command, to be staffed with public officials — ministers, congressmen, mayors and high government officials - who dedicated part or most of their time to campaign activities, as did the President of the Republic, Hugo Chávez Frías. No inquiries were made to ascertain whether these officials used public resources to move around during the campaign.