Washington, D.C.—On March 2, a broad civil society coalition in Venezuela took a major step forward in a campaign for free and fair elections. The group of Venezuelan organizations announced a list of 15 individuals to be candidates for rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the authority that oversees elections in the country. Under the constitution, the CNE is elected by the National Assembly and its five rectors serve seven-year terms.
“This announcement is a bold step forward for Venezuelan civil society. Rather than accept a protracted crisis, more and more voices on the ground are pushing the status quo in an effort to restore democratic institutions in Venezuela. While there is a long way to go and this effort faces serious hurdles, it sends a clear message that Venezuelans overwhelmingly want to participate in free, fair, and credible elections,” said Geoff Ramsey, WOLA Director for Venezuela.
The list of 15 candidates was announced by the Foro Cívico Nacional (National Civic Forum), a growing coalition of Venezuelan human rights NGOs, academics, faith groups, business leaders, labor unions, and other independent civil society organizations. The list of names was released along with a statement signed by 143 Venezuelan organizations and individuals encouraging the naming of a new, credible CNE as a path towards free and fair elections.
The Foro Cívico’s 15 candidates for CNE include some of the most-respected electoral experts in the country, among them Luis Lander of the Observatorio Electoral Venezolano, Griselda Colina of the Global Observatory of Communication and Democracy, and elections journalist Eugenio Martínez. While the final makeup of the CNE will be approved by the National Assembly that emerged from a widely-questioned vote, reports indicate that opposition parties that boycotted the December vote are seeking to participate in negotiations on the subject.