A mass grassroots electoral operation is being organised to elect spokespeople for communal councils and twenty new communes in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.
The operation has drawn national media attention as these will be the first communal elections to use the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) electronic voting system.
The director of the CNE’s Office for Citizen Participation, Joen Keiler Jimenez, explained to the media last Monday that while the CNE is providing equipment and technical support, “it is the communal councils, through their own electoral commissions, that carry out the elections”.
The capital-wide “communal electoral operation” is a result of cooperation between communal councils, the CNE, and the government’s Foundation for Communal Power and Development (Fundacomunal), with the aim being to elect new spokespeople to the city’s communal councils.
This will be followed by elections to choose the spokespeople and founding charters of twenty new communes in Caracas. The communes will then be able to formally register with the Ministry of Communes.
Communes in Venezuela are participatory democratic bodies that promote local self-governance and undertake public projects to develop the community. The Communes Law, which was passed in 2010, sets the legal framework for their formation and their functioning.
Communes are formed by groups of communal councils, which cover smaller territorial units and likewise exercise local self-governance. While there are over 44,000 registered communal councils, there are only around 200 established or developing communes in the country.
The first elections of the “communal electoral operation” in Caracas will take place on 22 September in the 23 de Enero district, when twenty-seven communal councils will choose the spokespeople of the new “Socialist Faith” and “Simon Bolivar” communes.
Each commune will contain twelve commissions of two members each, with around 50 spokespeople to be elected overall. It is estimated that over 5,500 local citizens will participate in the vote.
Legra Serrano of the Simon Bolivar Commune explained to the media that the electoral commissions of the communal councils that are organising the vote are currently participating in training workshops provided by the CNE.
“This process isn’t straightforward because above all we’re motivating the people. It’s necessary for the population to actively participate, not only in the vote, but in [creating] the communal structure,” she said.
The activist added that there have been technical challenges to organising the communal election, such as updating the electoral registers of the sixteen communal councils that will form the Simon Bolivar Commune.
The CNE meanwhile reports that in the first quarter of 2013 it offered technical electoral support to 823 communal councils, as well as supervising 400 communal council and 5 commune elections.