In a deeply worrying Tweetstorm last night, Luis Emilio Rondón explained that CNE’s just-revealed rules for renewing Official Party Status are even worse than we’d feared. Rondón, the sole opposition-friendly member of the National Electoral Council’s five-member board, didn’t mince his words:

As has become usual, CNE is going all out to create bizarre obstacles to people’s political participation: obstacles that aren’t in the constitution, aren’t in the law, and aren’t even in the malicious, forced interpretations of the law in recent Supreme Tribunal decisions.

Each party will have a single weekend — 14 hours total — to mobilize 0.5% of the electoral rolls in at least 12 states to retain official party status. There aren’t anywhere near enough voting centers open to make this practicable — just 390 fingerprint scanners nationwide will be enabled. CNE is engineering a mass shakeout of the smaller parties, but that much has been clear all along.

The rule that really jumps out at me is this stuff about how voters aren’t allowed to sign on behalf of more than one party.

This smells like a trap.

As we speak, MUD is on the verge of being declared illegal for “irregularities” that are entirely CNE’s fault.

Because inevitably in a process like this, some people get confused, some people don’t learn all the rules, and some people will sign on behalf of multiple parties. That’s virtually inevitable.

Now, if we didn’t have any experience with this sort of thing, we might not worry about it. But we’ve been around the block a few times. We remember last year’s Recall Rigamarole. We’ve seen this CNE set absurd conditions for voter participation processes before, conditions that seemed designed to cause confusion and multiply mistakes.

And we’ve seen that when those mistakes, inevitably, are made, the government isn’t the least bit shy about leveraging them to push for heavy-handed punitive action to close political spaces for the opposition.

As we speak, MUD is on the verge of being declared illegal for “irregularities” that are entirely CNE’s fault, “irregularities” that stem directly from CNE’s bizarre Vogon bureaucracy.

And this is plainly the plan here as well: decree people can only sign in support of one party, wait for a few dozen people to screw up, sign more than once, and leverage that into an overwrought declaration that the whole damn thing is rigged and none of it counts.

It’s straightforward, really: it’s a trap.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.