Venezuelan migrants, a critical element in upcoming opposition primaries

By Sarai Coscojuela

Caracas, Feb 27 (EFE).- The participation of migrants who have left Venezuela is a priority in the upcoming opposition primaries, said the head of the National Primaries Commission, Jesus Maria Casal, in an interview with EFE, although he acknowledged the difficulty of registering these people and updating the voter rolls abroad, in coordination with the National Electoral Council (CNE).

Casal said that the commission he heads has been working “constantly” to prepare a register of Venezuelans living abroad so that they may participate in the Oct. 22 election primaries in which the candidate who will face off against President Nicolas Maduro in the 2024 presidential election will be selected.

“It’s an issue we’ve been discussing on an ongoing basis, exactly what that register will contain, how broad it will be. The rules for the primaries establish that the election register for the primary must be based on the Electoral Register (prepared by the CNE), however there are many Venezuelans who are in the Electoral Register, millions … but who have not updated their addresses, so it’s an issue that’s being discussed a lot,” he said.

The attorney said that inside Venezuela election authorities have been formally asked to set aside special days for voters to sign up to cast their ballots and to update their data, “but achieving something like that abroad or at this time, in the short term, is a difficult task.”

Casal said that the primaries commission is working on a general plan to include Venezuelan living abroad in future elections, the nearest one being the presidential vote in 2024.

“We’re taking the first steps in that direction, a plan to incorporate Venezuelans who are abroad into the electoral process. This is being planned in a general way, because this incorporation could also be for the presidential election. However, it’s just a plan, and we would not be able to guarantee its implementation, because these would be recommendations to the government branches,” he added.

In the latest edition of the Electoral Register dated Sept. 30, 2022, there were 21,094,629 citizens of voting age who were registered to vote, of whom just 107,878 were registered through diplomatic posts the country maintains abroad.

The Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants (R4V) – a mechanism co-headed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration – said last December that 7.1 million Venezuelans had emigrated in recent years.

Given these figures, the attorney said that the responsibility for the overall process, and for the potential registration of migrants for the primaries, falls fully on the National Primaries Commission because – he warned – if this is done in a decentralized way, where “anyone on his own” can prepare a registry, it could lead to “non-positive consequences.”

Casal said that although there have been different reactions regarding the date selected for the primaries, a generally good feeling prevails about having “certainty” about it.

With eight months yet to go, he said that one cannot ignore the possibility that the presidential vote may be moved up, a potential move that the governing Chavismo movement has brought up on several occasions.

“Although we cannot ignore that, neither can we condition our conduct on it because we’re never going to have certainties here,” he said.

In his judgment, if the election is advanced to the first half of 2024, that “may be a reaction that could be more or less reasonable within the current Venezuelan institutional context with its many weaknesses.”

“Of course, if the date of the elections is moved up to this year, which would really be something, although frankly arbitrary, that would be more difficult. However, we’re not ruling out the scenario of a primary that’s a little more accelerated, if the circumstances demand it,” he said.

He said that the “big objective” of the National Primaries Commission is to achieve the enthusiastic participation of Venezuelans who support the opposition because there’s disenchantment with the country’s current situation among that cohort.

“After so much time during which the citizenry has been sort of asleep, above all asleep in regard to the electoral process, which they view with so much skepticism, so many doubts, this is a way to reconcile the public with the power of the vote, at least within the context that concerns us, which is the primary,” he said.

He said that if people understand that their “vote is important and can lead to change, that also can have an impact later at the time of the presidential election.”

EFE sc/bp

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