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04CARACAS2758 2004-08-30 21:01:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

REGIONAL AND MAYORAL ELECTIONS

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM VE 
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1. (U) Venezuela's gubernatorial and mayoral elections are
scheduled for September 26, but National Electoral Council
(CNE) director Jorge Rodriguez told reporters on August 23
that the CNE is discussing changing the date of the regional
elections for logistical reasons. President Hugo Chavez's
Comando Maisanta representative and National Assembly deputy
William Lara (MVR, Miranda) said a short delay for technical
reasons was acceptable but insisted regional elections should
take place as soon as possible. Many within the opposition
are debating whether to participate in the regional and
mayoral elections, and some are hinging their participation
on changes to the electoral process. End Summary.



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Election Day Delay


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2. (U) Gubernatorial and mayoral elections are scheduled for
September 26, but National Electoral Council (CNE) director
Jorge Rodriguez told reporters on August 23 that the CNE is
considering changing the date of the regional elections for
logistical reasons. This would be the second postponement
for the regional elections initially scheduled to occur on
August 1 but delayed due to the August 15 presidential recall
referendum. Rodriguez also told reporters on August 23 that
the recall referendum for nine opposition legislative
deputies might be scheduled on the same day as the regional
and mayoral elections. Movimiento Quinta Republica (MVR)
gubernatorial candidate Diosdado Cabello (Miranda State)
opposed holding regional and recall elections together
saying, "The priority is the regional election."



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Challenges for Comando Maisanta


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3. (U) President Hugo Chavez's Comando Maisanta
representative and National Assembly deputy William Lara
(MVR, Miranda) said a short delay for technical reasons was
acceptable, but suggested that if the date were pushed back
too far Comando Maisanta would appeal to the Supreme Court.
Falcon State governor Jesus Montilla said CNE members do not
have the constitutional right to extend the terms of
governors and mayors, which in essence they would be doing by
changing the date of the elections. The mayor of Caracas'
Libertador municipality, Freddy Bernal, urged the CNE to
preserve the September 26 date for regional elections. If a
change of date were necessary for technical reasons, Bernal
said, then the delay should be minimized because the
Venezuelan people have been in "campaign mode" for too long.
(Note: Comando Maisanta formally launched its regional and
mayoral election campaign on August 20.) While opposed to
delaying regional elections, Chavista leaders urged the CNE
to increase the number of voting tables available at each
voting center before the regional elections to reduce the
amount of time voters spend in line.



4. (U) With multiple Chavista candidates in 12 of the 23
states, deciding how to choose one unified candidate is a
dilemma for Comando Maisanta. The four propositions
currently under discussion are: a political dialog among the
parties, consulting the communities, conducting a poll and
choosing the candidate with the most support, or holding
primary elections. According to Comando Maisanta's William
Izarra, Chavez will be the one to choose the method for
unification. President Chavez, meanwhile, has reiterated his
support for the candidates he has chosen, and on his August
29 "Alo, Presidente" program told his followers to stop
bickering and unite behind the candidates.



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Opposition Otherwise Occupied


--------------------------





5. (U) Chavez opponents continue to debate whether to
participate in the gubernatorial and mayoral elections, and
some are hinging their participation on changes to the
electoral process. To increase transparency in the upcoming
regional elections the opposition said they want a manual


rather than electronic vote. If the vote were electronic,
they propose, then each table should also count the manual
ballots emitted by the machines. Yaracuy State Governor
Eduardo Lapi said, "If Chavez successfully discourages the
opposition from voting in the regionals, then he will have
obtained the largest victory in the history of democracy, so
we (the opposition) have to participate in the regionals on
the condition that the votes are counted manually."



6. (C) Bolivar State Governor Antonio Rojas Suarez said that
unless changes were made, no one should participate in the
regional elections. He said, "If we do not participate in the
regionals, there will be an institutional crisis." One of
Tachira State's gubernatorial candidates opposed to Chavez,
Jose Luis Rincon, agreed with Rojas pointing out that if the
referendum was a true reflection of the voter's will (which
he vehemently denied), then Chavista governors will win in
every state just as Chavez did, especially now that so many
opposition voters feel robbed and will abstain from voting.
If the vote was fraudulent, Rincon said, then using the same
system will allow the GOV to "steal" the regional elections.



--------------------------


Comment


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7. (C) Hoping to take advantage of the momentum from the
August 15 referendum win, plus the opposition's confusion and
internal arguments, Chavez supporters are pushing to hold
regional elections on September 26 or soon thereafter. The
opposition may benefit from the additional time, but it is
most unlikely they will be successful in their push for a
manual count. They may, however, come to agreement and make
headway on unified candidates that can compete with
candidates backed by the Chavez machine.
McFarland


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2004CARACA02758 - CONFIDENTIAL