|Wikileaks:||View 04CARACAS173 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PGOV PHUM PREL VE|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000173 SIPDIS NSC FOR CBARTON USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2014 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, VE SUBJECT: OPPOSITION FRAYS OVER ELECTORAL QUESTIONS Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor, for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d) ------- Summary ------- 1. (C) The National Electoral Council (CNE) officially began the verification process for the three signature drives to recall President Hugo Chavez and numerous National Assembly deputies January 13. The CNE's announcement that gubernatorial and mayoral elections will take place as scheduled in July/August, however, stirred up tensions among opposition political parties over which electoral process will be the priority for the opposition. Traditional parties (AD, COPEI, MAS) perceive an opportunity to defeat Chavez at the state and local level, while other parties (Primero Justicia, Proyecto Venezuela, Causa R) worry that a divided opposition will fumble the presidential referendum process. Frustrated by the slow pace of the CNE, the opposition has fallen into the trap of attacking each other. End Summary. --------------------------------------------- - CNE Begins Physical Check of Chavez Signatures --------------------------------------------- - 2. (C) On January 14, the National Electoral Council (CNE) began the physical verification -- the first step in the verification process -- of the signatures collected in support of the presidential referendum. On January 13, National Electoral Council (CNE) directors Jorge Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora declared publicly that the verification process had begun. The CNE board reportedly increased the number of lawyers on the committee examining the certifications ("actas") from 40 to 70 to speed up that stage of the verification process. Rodriguez added that the CNE plans to work separately on the three signature drives, 1) against opposition deputies, 2) against President Hugo Chavez, and 3) against GOV-allied deputies. An OAS observer told poloff January 13 that the CNE is planning to create a single report to announce the results of the three drives. (Note: The rules permit 30 days to complete the verification process and two days for the CNE board to approve the results.) He doubted the CNE could finish the job in the legally prescribed 30 days, but expressed confidence that work would proceed expeditiously. -------------------------------- Regional Elections Cloud Picture -------------------------------- 3. (C) The CNE's announcement that elections for governors and mayors would proceed on schedule at the end of July (or beginning of August) stirred up concern among opposition parties over the fate of the recall referendum against Chavez. Primero Justicia (PJ), Proyecto Venezuela (PV), and Causa R denounced AD, COPEI, MAS, Solidaridad, and Union for allegedly giving priority to the regional elections instead of the presidential recall vote. PJ Secretary General Jose Luis Mejias told poloffs January 14 that a meeting at the Democratic Coordinating Committee (DCC) on January 10 revealed strong disagreement between parties on how to proceed. Mejias claimed that state and local elections will distract from the referendum, citing an example of a rural PJ candidate who asked party leadership not to criticize Chavez because he was supported by an important group of Chavez supporters in his town. Mejias said PJ has proposed a unified campaign committee to coordinate candidate selection among the parties, basing the decision on who is most likely to defeat the Chavez-backed candidate. Regarding PJ Deputy Gerardo Blyde's request to the Supreme Court to postpone the regional elections until December, Mejias thought the Court would reject the request, but added that at least PJ would make its point. 4. (C) Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) President Felipe Mujica dispelled PJ's criticisms in a conversation with poloffs January 15. Mujica said PJ has "votes but not candidates" and is less prepared for the regional elections. The dispute between parties is natural competition, he said, and for a party to ignore an election would be like trying to ignore the reality of one's own birthday. The CNE calendar, he said, would require parties to name state and local candidates o/a March 20. He noted that if the CNE announces at the beginning of February that there will be a referendum in May/June, then Miranda State Governor Enrique Mendoza, a potential candidate for president, would have to choose between the two. The opposition, he said, is facing either "a great opportunity" or a "big disaster," depending on whether they can coordinate on the various electoral events. 5. (C) A representative of the DCC told PolOff that the January 10 meeting produced a deadlock among parties and NGOs over the question of regional elections. The representative said he thought it unlikely there would be agreement on unified candidates for governors and mayors, but that as the elections approached, trailing candidates would throw their support to the leading opposition candidate. The representative suspects the CNE will ultimately combine the regional elections with either the referendum against Chavez or the subsequent presidential election. ------- Comment ------- 6. (C) For months we have heard from GOV allies their strategy to divide the opposition over the regional elections. The opposition fell into the trap and turned on themselves by taking it public. It should not be surprising that those political parties with strong chances of winning at the state and local levels are not willing to pass up the opportunity. They hope to remove Chavez now via referendum, but think it foolish not to try to deal him a blow by defeating him in the regional elections. We suspect the opposition's divisions over regional elections can be reconciled in time, though it will be a messy process. SHAPIRO NNNN
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