Thousands of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) activists are participating in grassroots assemblies to select candidates for the party’s municipal primary elections, to be held on 9 April.
The assemblies, which are being held throughout the country between 23 and 28 February, are the first stage in the PSUV’s internal process to choose its candidates for Venezuela’s 14 July municipal elections, when mayors and local councillors will be elected in Venezuela’s 335 municipalities.
The candidate selection assemblies are made up of the most active PSUV members, defined as the four main members of each local Carabobo Battle Unit (UBC) and the heads of each local 1×10 patrol, which are both PSUV electoral campaigning organisations.
Members of each grassroots assembly discuss the political and community work of possible local PSUV candidates for mayor and councillor, and then vote on who should be put forward for the 9 April primary election, to a limit of up to 18 candidates for each mayoral position.
The PSUV national leadership will then review the list of proposed candidates before the primary elections, in which all members of UBCs and 1×10 patrols will be able to vote.
The PSUV leadership has set out rules on the internal electoral process, including on how the final selection of candidates after the 9 April primary elections will operate.
Nicolas Maduro, Venezuelan vice president and member of the PSUV leadership, made a televised visit to a candidate selection assembly in Caracas on Saturday.
He passed on a message from President Hugo Chavez, who is the PSUV’s chairman and is currently recovering from cancer surgery, that Chavez urged party activists to choose “the best” fellow citizens as candidates and to “leave aside” the values of individualism and selfishness.
“The commander in chief also insists on unity and the new values of revolutionary leadership, that is, a total dedication to the people,” Maduro added.
The Venezuelan vice president reminded activists that the holding of primaries had been Chavez’s decision and that they were “the opportunity…so that councillors emerge from the people, and are always the people’s voice”.
Maduro also said that the PSUV will establish schools for the political education of party activists, which will be present “in the neighbourhood and the factory”.
PSUV leaders have reported high levels of participation in the candidate selection assemblies, with over 13,000 assemblies being held around the country, and 15,000 party activists participating in Carabobo state alone.
Party activists have welcomed the primary elections as a positive step after criticisms were made of the lack of internal democracy in the selection of candidates for last December’s state governor elections, when only Hugo Chavez and the PSUV national leadership chose the party’s gubernatorial candidates.
“With these assemblies the PSUV emerges strengthened, because we’ve chosen our candidates responsibly and from the grassroots,” said Stephania Cartaya of the UBC Santa Teresita in Caracas.
Maduro also expressed his hope that the candidates eventually chosen by the PSUV for the July municipal elections will be “unity candidates” that will be supported by all forces in favour of the Bolivarian Revolution, especially by the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) coalition of parties and social movements.
Part of the PSUV’s internal election process includes the possibility that after the 9 April primary elections candidates from allied parties will also be selected as unity candidates, in an attempt to avoid parallel candidates within Chavismo being put forward, as happened in some cases in the state governor elections last December.
The PSUV is hoping that in July’s municipal elections the party can consolidate gains made in the December regional elections, when the PSUV won 20 out of 23 states.
A strong victory in July would complete a cycle of victories inflicted on the right-wing opposition over the previous six months, beginning last October when Chavez won the presidential election with 55% of the vote.