Playing Hardball on the CNE appointments

The opposition MUD National Assembly caucus brokered a smart political operation that may prevent chavismo, for the first time since who-knows-when, from just railroading die-hard partisans into the CNE board unopposed. So, just for today, I'm being nice to MUD.

The MUD has been getting a lot of flack lately for not getting things done. But the opposition alliance continues to use what little institutional maneuvering room it has to fight the good fight. Much of this flies under the radar, and it’ll never filter out into broader public attention, but at least the political junkies who read this blog should know about them.

Take the fight to appoint three main members of the CNE, the Venezuelan Elections Board. This afternoon, the National Assembly was supposed to pick the 10 civil society members who will in turn select candidates for the CNE board. Surprisingly, the result could be a CNE that, while not necessarily being decent, could at least avoid the extremes of pro-government partiality that have marked it over the last several years.

Why? Because taking advantage of divisions within the governing PSUV party, the opposition MUD National Assembly caucus brokered a smart political operation that may prevent chavismo, for the first time since who-knows-when, from just railroading die-hard partisans into the CNE board unopposed.

To understand how nifty this move was, a tiny refresher course on how CNE is made up:

The CNE is made up of 5 principal board members (Rectores), with 2 alternates each, all of whom, according to the Constitution, “must not be associated with partisan organizations.”

Their appointments technically last 7 years, and they’re replaced on a staggered schedule for the sake of administ-rative continuity. Of these 5 main members, one is nominated by universities, one by the Moral Branch (don’t ask), and three by Civil Society. It’s these last 3 (Tibisay Lucena, Sandra Oblitas and Vicente Díaz) whose terms expired in 2013, and who must therefore be replaced ASAP.

The process for nominating replacement rectores is long and boring, but the key is in the selection of a Comité de Postulaciones Electorales, a committee of electoral nominations. This committee is a mix of civil society members and legislators. It is made up of 11 Members of Parliament [5 opposition: Bernardo Guerra (AD), Elías Matta (UNT), Morel Rodríguez (AD), Juan C. Caldera (PJ) and Nirma Guarulla (MPV); and 6 chavista: Blanca Eckhout (PSUV), Orlando Zambrano (PSUV), Tito Oviedo (PSUV), Earle Herrera (PSUV), Hugbel Roa (PSUV) and Rosa León (PSUV)]. These guys must, in turn, choose 10 members of civil society, to make up the 21-member team that will select the final three rectores. The 10 members of civil society must be ratified by a 2/3 vote in the National Assembly.

Remember: chavismo doesn’t have 2/3 of the National Assembly.

Once this Comité de Postulaciones Electorales is set up, their job is to come up with the names of people who will be considered for CNE rector, and then submit a list of three candidates for every post that needs to be filled to the National Assembly. The National Assembly (AN) then picks the 3 rectores and 6 alternates from this list, who must all also be ratified by a 2/3 majority. If the AN fails to reach this 2/3 majority vote for any of the posts, the Supreme Tribunal selects the rectores.

The strategic importance of the Comité de Postulaciones Electorales depends on the effective power it has to nominate candidates for rector. In the past, the Comité de Postulaciones Electorales was just a formality, since the committee was always chosen only after the rectores had been negotiated in a smoke-filled room somewhere. That’s what happened in 2009, the last time that there was a vacancy in the CNE, and the whole process was fast-tracked by an all-chavista AN.

This time around, despite all the foot dragging by the powers that be (remember that Tibi, Sandra and Vicente’s posts ran out a year ago), the opposition has some distant chance to get some more decent appointments.

Why? Because even though the Comité de Postulaciones Electorales has a chavista majority of 6 MPs, and could therefore have selected 10 civil-society members who were all pro-revolution, the MUD MPs ruthlessly exploited the splits within the PSUV, flexed their muscle, and came up with a creative way to prevent this from happening.

Initially PSUV MPs wanted 7 chavistas and 3 oppposition citizens in the Comité de Postulaciones Electorales, and the MUD countered with a 6-4 scenario. Eventually, apparently the oppo faction, led by Primero Justicia MP Juan Carlos Caldera was responsible for brokering a deal in which 20 names, 10 chavista and 10 opposition, would be submitted to the AN, and it would be up to the plenary, NOT the preliminary commission of 6 chavista MPs, to select the final 10 members of the Comité.

Way to go, MUD MPs!

We hereby confer to you an official pat on the back.

The 20 names being considered for the Nominations Committee (not for the CNE itself, remember) include none other than our Juan Nagel’s dad, maracucho historian extraordinaire Kurt Nagel. The others are:


Heryck Rangel

Yenniz Arrieta

Livia Mercedes Gómez

William Roberto García

Zulay Coromoto Delgado

Bernardo Antonio Fernandez

César Augusto Sánchez

Oscar Armando Contreras

Edith María Silva

Carlos Díaz


Andrés Clavier

Oswaldo Morillo

Eva Gutierrez

Franklin Klepper

Reinaldo Zavarce

Francisco Alfaro

José María Cárdenas

Carlos Agostini

Francisco Bello

and Juan’s dad.

This list must be whittled down to 10 by the AN.

The key here is that the more people who are not openly affiliated with a political party made it into this list, the better, since for each faction, those who are more independent will generate less rejection by the other, and a 2/3 vote will require the least objectionable names possible.This increases our chances of getting good people like Kurt Nagel into the final ten.

Hopefully, the MUD understood this and played it smart, and so none of its 10 proposed names are openly affiliated with an opposition party. Sadly, we will have to wait and see how this strategy unfolds, since today’s AN plenary has been cancelled thanks to the PSUV Congress.

Emiliana Duarte

Emi is a cook, a lover of animals, politics, expletives, and Venezuela. She is the co-founder of Caracas Chronicles LLC and Managing Editor if the site until December 2017.