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Article 294 and electoral authoritarianism

Nicolás Maduro and Elvis Amoroso in 2020. Photo Carlos Becerra.

Article 294 is the provision of the Constitution that most clearly shows the violation of rights in electoral matters carried out by the Venezuelan government in a systematic way. It reads: “The Electoral Power is governed by the principles of organic independence, functional and budgetary autonomy, non-partisan electoral bodies, impartiality and citizen participation; decentralization of the electoral administration, transparency and speed of the act of voting and scrutiny.”

Last August, the unconstitutionally elected National Assembly appointed the members of the National Electoral Council. These will replace those appointed in May 2021 who, surprisingly, resigned in June 2023. This resignation, which forced the appointment of new members, was clearly not spontaneous, but rather is part of the political strategy of Nicolás Maduro with a view to the 2024 presidential elections.

Let’s look at some elements that support this statement, based on the context in which the elections in Venezuela have taken place in the recent past. On the one hand, the National Electoral Council, given the low popularity of Nicolás Maduro, has prevented the registration of new voters in the electoral registry, which should be permanently open so that citizens can register and thus have the possibility of exercising their right to vote. A dramatic example of this decision by the electoral authorities to limit access to vote is evidenced by comparing the numbers of those registered abroad, which for the 2012 elections were around 100,000 voters, with the current figure, more than a decade later, when they only reach 107,179 registered voters. This period, additionally, has seen migration grow exponentially, since at least seven million Venezuelans have settled in other countries.

The electoral body presidency is now in charge of Elvis Amoroso, a relevant member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who has served as Comptroller General of the Republic and has consistently ordered the disqualification of opposition leaders, violating the legal framework and therefore preventing their electoral participation. Thus, during the term of Nicolás Maduro, Henrique Capriles Radonski, María Corina Machado, and Fredy Superlano have been disqualified with administrative measures and without the right to defense or the opening of any trial. The previous Comptroller, Manuel Galindo, executed the measure against Capriles, while Amoroso was in charge of María Corina Machado and Fredy Superlano, among others. The latter, in an unprecedented way, was disqualified at the very moment of being the winner of the election as governor of the State of Barinas in 2021, so that the Supreme Court of Justice annulled the election and called a new process. It should be noted that, if he had been disqualified prior to the election, the National Electoral Council would not have accredited his registration as a candidate, which shows the arbitrary nature of the measure.

Thus, the use of disqualifications as a political weapon has turned out to be a mechanism to violate the political rights of citizens, and the concurrence of the ilicit National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council to benefit the interests of the executive branch demonstrates a very serious level of concentration of power in a single political sector that acts without any regard for the rule of law.

For this reason, the appointment of Elvis Amoroso, a member of the PSUV political leadership and direct executor of the disqualifications of numerous opposition leaders, flagrantly attacks electoral institutions and seeks to place a person whose fidelity to the Maduro regime is unquestionable and who, in itself, constitutes a factor of distrust for the electorate, at the head of the body in charge of governing the 2024 presidential elections.

In this way, AlertaVenezuela calls on the international community to join the voices that demand from the Venezuelan public powers respect for the rule of law, the organization of an electoral process under fair conditions and with international verification, as well as compliance with the mandate of the law, especially in relation to the ” departisanization of electoral bodies, impartiality and citizen participation” indicated in article 294 of the Constitution.