Maduro unveils rules for electing Constituent Assembly members

And they’re just as silly as we’d feared

So Nicolás Maduro just announced the rules for electing members to the Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC) — the so-called bases comiciales. They’re his best attempt to resolve an insoluble problem: how do you take 10-15% support in the opinion polls and turn that into 50%+1 of the seats in an elected Assembly?

The short answer is: you can’t. Not elegantly, anyway, and certainly nowhere near democratically. You have to go to crazy, crazy extremes to give yourself an advantage, freestyling rules that have no precedent in Venezuelan history.

Then you have to apply those rules with all the impartiality Bolivarian socialism is famous for, which is to say with not the slightest trace of impartiality.

And even then, you’re so unpopular it’s still far from certain you’ll win.

He said the ANC will have 540 constituents, elected by universal, secret and direct vote: 364 territorial members and 176 “sectoral” members.

Maduro branded the ANC as a “weapon for constitutional peace.” He didn’t add that “War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength and Freedom is Slavery,” but he might as well have.

As his speech got going, he was pretty furious that Fedecámaras and MUD refused “dialogue” with the Presidential Commission for the ANC. Crazy though it is to note, he straight-up ignored the fact that the CEV, the General Prosecutor and others openly rejected the so-called popular initiative.

Eventually, once recrimination hour was over, he got around to announcing the pile of crazy he’s passing off as his bases comiciales.

He said the ANC will have 540 constituents, elected by universal, secret and direct vote: 364 territorial members and 176 “sectoral” members. Needless to say, there will be no referendum to decide whether or not the ANC will be convened, nor is there any guarantee a referendum will be needed to eventually approve any new constitution it writes, since it’s entirely obvious that the government would lose either of those — or indeed any other remotely democratic vote.

At a territorial level, the ANC will have one delegate per municipality (elected via first-past-the-post), and two delegates per municipalities that are states’ capitals. There’ll be seven constituents from Distrito Capital.

Here is the detailed list of the number of constituents per state:

DC: 7

Amazonas: 8

Anzoátegui: 22

Apure: 8

Aragua: 19

Barinas: 13

Bolívar: 12

Carabobo: 15

Cojedes: 10

Delta Amacuro: 5

Falcón: 26

Guárico: 16

Lara: 10

Mérida: 24

Miranda: 22

Monagas: 14

Nueva Esparta: 12

Portuguesa: 15

Sucre: 16

Táchira: 30

Trujillo: 21

Vargas: 2

Yaracuy: 15

Zulia: 22

The trampa here is clear enough: this will create one of the more deliriously mis-apportioned assemblies in recent history. The vast bulk of municipalities are rural, while the vast bulk of Venezuelans live in a relative handful of urban municipalities. And — would you believe it! — the government tends to do better in rural areas than in urban areas.

Shocker!

But the real mess comes with this sectoral nonsense.

We’re told there’ll be one member for every 83,000 people certified as members of each sector.

The sectors that will be included are: workers, farmers and fishermen [and fisherwomen], students, people with disabilities, indigenous people, pensioners, businessmen [and businesswomen], comunas and consejos comunales. Of the 176 members, eight will be representatives of the indigenous people.

We’re told there’ll be one member for every 83,000 people certified as members of each sector. But the questions start right away. What’s a “certified member”? Who gets to decide that? Who decides who’s a Union member? Where do I sign up to become a campesino sector voter? And does this whole thing have a Carnet de la Patria ring to it or what?

Just to complicate the lavativa a bit more, workers will be classified according to their activities: oil, mining, basic industries, commerce, education, health, sports, transport, construction, cultores, intellectuals, press, science and technology and public administration. And students will be classified among private universities, public universities and Misiones Educativas.

Too simple for you? Don’t worry, they have ways of enredat-ing it all still more: while the members of each sector will be elected at a national level, the members of the comunas and consejos comunales will be elected by state.

How exactly CNE is supposed to turn this conceptual train wreck into an election is up for grabs.

Another interesting sectoral catch: no voter may vote in more than one sector. The decree says this is the order in which sectors will be assigned its members: businessmen, farmers and fishermen, people with disabilities, students, workers, comunas and consejos comunales, and  pensioners. Maybe it’s our imagination, but as the list progresses, the last groups will probably be easier to manipulate, right?

To put some icing on the cake, Maduro stated that constituents will have immunity.

So who can apply for a fancy Constituent badge? Venezuelans with no double nationality (interesting, to say the least) with at least 18 years of age. The applicant must also be a registered voter. If you’re applying for a territorial seat, you must have lived in the entity for at least 5 years. If you’re applying for a sectoral seat, you must be a certified member of the sector -still not sure con qué se come esto.

You can apply to be a candidate yourself, but for the territorial seats you need the support of 3% of registered voters in that district. The sectors an postulate members for their respective seats, with the support of 3% of the sectoral electoral registry.

Just to be clear, high-ranking public officials and active members of the Armed Forces may not participate on the ANC… unless, they resign from their post first.

To end with a big bang, Maduro let us know that the ANC will be based in Salón Elíptico of the Palacio Federal Legislativo a.k.a. the hall that houses the ark that contains the Book of Proceedings of the First National Congress of Venezuela, that includes the Declaration of Independence Act signed on July 5, 1811. It’s not that big a room. 540 people trying to hold a session there sounds like a circus to us.

Look, the Maduro proposal is impresentable: an affront to democracy, a spit in the face of popular sovereignty, and the kind of procedural garbage no self-respecting democrat could imaginably agree to lunch on.

The ANC will be temporarily governed by the Estatuto de Funcionamiento of the 1999 ANC, until a new one is approved. We didn’t think much of it until Carlos García put on his worried face and showed us article 1: “La Asamblea [ANC], en uso de las atribuciones que le son inherentes, podrá limitar o decidir la cesación de las actividades de las autoridades que conforman el Poder Público”. The ANC, in use of the powers inherent to it, may limit or decide to cease the activities of the authorities that make up the Public Power.

Look, the Maduro proposal is impresentable: an affront to democracy, a spit in the face of popular sovereignty, and the kind of procedural garbage no self-respecting democrat could imaginably agree to lunch on. This assembly can’t ever be allowed to convene. Not with these rules. It would be an affront.

On the other hand, Maduro is so universally despised, he could lose even with these rules. Which, really, is the most remarkable fact of all.

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