Photo: Raul Stolk

For the past six years, the Bolivarian Revolution has been focusing on its strategy to consolidate a political system with an “hegemonic party.”

It began before the presidential election of 2012, with the intervention of Podemos and PPT, part of Henrique Capriles Radonski’s campaign structure. Over time, and after the Supreme Tribunal of Justice’s (TSJ) intervention, the National Electoral Council (CNE) blocked organizations representing dissident chavismo from registering (Marea Socialista and Unión Nacional Organizada), also barring the possibility for Vente Venezuela, led by María Corina Machado, of becoming a political party.

Three years later, before the 2015 parliamentary elections, chavismo judicially intervened four political organizations with united candidacies from the Opposition Party Coalition (MUD). MIN-Unidad, MEP, COPEI and Bandera Roja were affected. The intervention mostly consisted on transferring party control to members related with or close to Maduro.

Only 12 political organizations managed to overcome the technical and legal roadblocks. 12 out of 59.

The following phase began in January, 2016, after the political party revalidation process, established in the Law of Political Parties, Public Meetings and Manifestations, was suspended.

Revalidations were postponed until March 2017, a delay caused by the CNE itself to block the recall referendum process on Nicolás Maduro’s continuity as President of Venezuela. Between March and August of 2017, the CNE called on 59 national parties to re-register. Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) and the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) weren’t called because they were the most voted organizations in the latest parliamentary elections. Three other organizations admitted by the CNE after 2015 didn’t attend the process either. Out of these, two were linked to the opposition, Partido Unión y Entendimiento (Puente) and Unidad Política Popular 89. The other was linked to the government, Independientes por el Progreso.

Only 12 political organizations managed to overcome the technical and legal roadblocks.

12 out of 59.

Five of these survivors were openly tied to the opposition (Acción Democrática, Avanzada Progresista, Primero Justicia, Un Nuevo Tiempo and Voluntad Popular). However, complaints of fraud in result tallies for the appointment of the National Constituent Assembly members, in July 2017, and irregularities of gubernatorial elections (October 2017), made these opposition survivors abstain from participating in the December 2017 mayoral elections.

The absence of these parties was used by the National Constituent Assembly as an excuse to order a new, expedient and compulsory revalidation process for all those who refused to participate in gubernatorial and mayoral elections.

The decision forced Acción Democrática, Democratic Unity Roundtable, Primero Justicia, Puente and Voluntad Popular to re-register again. Although the power play violated articles 52 and 67 of the Constitution, and 25 and 32 of the Law of Political Parties, it was upheld by CNE authorities, along with ruling 878 of the TSJ’s Constitutional Chamber.

The absence of these parties was used by the ANC as an excuse to order a new, expedient and compulsory revalidation process.

And since Voluntad Popular and Puente decided not to obey the ANC (getting barred from running in elections), the express revalidation process caused a new split within the opposition.

The cherry on top? Only Acción Democrática managed to fulfill the CNE requirements. In the cases of Primero Justicia and Democratic Unity Roundtable, CNE authorities changed the re-registration manuals used in 2017, preventing them from fulfilling the imposed requirements (as COPEI and Bandera Roja did in 2017).

In this context, a belated presidential election was called for May 20. Ten parties campaigned for Nicolás Maduro’s reelection, four supported Henri Falcón (Avanzada Progresista, Movimiento Al Socialismo, COPEI and Movimiento Ecológico de Venezuela) and one organization (Esperanza por el Cambio) backed Javier Bertucci. Four parties that successfully wrestled the CNE’s revalidation demands decided not to attend the process: Acción Democrática, Independientes por el Progreso, Un Nuevo Tiempo and Nuvipa. Since they didn’t participate in the May 20 election, the National Constituent Assembly decided that these organizations were illegal and had to undergo a new process of collecting signatures and fingerprints (the third in 12 months).

These four were joined by eight “incipient” national organizations: Acción Ciudadana en Positivo, Cambiemos Movimiento Ciudadano, Fuerza Del Cambio, Independientes por la Comunidad Nacional, Lápiz Procomunidad, Liberal Prociudadanos, Partido Independiente de Venezuela and Soluciones Por Venezuela.

The new revalidation decreed the actual illegalization of Acción Democrática, Un Nuevo Tiempo, Nuvipa and Independientes por el Progreso, but it also meant the birth of three new political opposition parties: Cambiemos Movimiento Ciudadano, Lápiz Procomunidad and Fuerza del Cambio.

In 2015, the Venezuelan opposition managed the greatest electoral victory in 20 years. Now, only the party led by former presidential candidate Henri Falcón remains legal.

Although it’s been reiterated that Fuerza del Cambio was registered by former Miranda governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, his name doesn’t appear in any of the documents filed before the CNE. Fuerza del Cambio is led by Efraín Fernández, who served as touring chief for Capriles Radonski until a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, Cambiemos Movimiento Ciudadano is led by lawmaker Timoteo Zambrano. Antonio Ecarri heads Lápiz Procomunidad.

In 2015, the Venezuelan opposition managed the greatest electoral victory in 20 years. 24 months later, only the party led by former presidential candidate Henri Falcón remains legal, while the rest of the political forces from the Democratic Unity Roundtable have been illegalized.

Chavismo is hellbent on defining a new political ecosystem in the pursuit a single hegemonic party scenario.

And it’s working.

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