Shared Concern Initiative’s Statement on the Presidential Election in Venezuela

The Shared Concern Initiative is releasing its new statement on Venezuela on the eve of the country’s presidential election. “Who Will Decide Venezuela’s Election?” is based on a fact-finding mission conducted by Forum 2000 representatives in Venezuela.

On October 7, 2012, Venezuelans will choose between incumbent President Hugo Chávez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

Unlike previous elections, opinion polls give Hugo Chávez only a marginal lead over his opponent. Although this is a positive sign pointing to the existence of free political competition, serious concerns remain over the lack of media freedom in the country. Denying the opposition access to media risks altering the results of the October election.

“The lack of free media is especially alarming and does not bode well for the free and fair election. It is essential that the opposition can freely air its message and target prospective voters. The lesson has not been lost on the Chávez regime as it seeks to curtail further the opposition’s ability to reach out to voters.”

Concerns have also been voiced over the state of President Chávez’s health and his ability to fulfill a fourth term.

“Chávez’s health remains perhaps the biggest enigma of the upcoming election. There are conflicting reports regarding his state of health, with some presenting a grim prognosis. His sudden departure due to illness might cause a political vacuum, which could become conducive to a power grab of one form or another, such as a military coup. Strict adherence to constitutional provisions in any such eventuality is imperative.”

The Shared Concern Initiative advises the following to ensure a democratic election in October.

“In order to ensure a level playing field, the Venezuelan opposition should have equal access to media, and official attacks on media outlets must stop. On Election Day itself, the opposition should be able to place observers at any and all polling stations without fear for their safety. In addition, we appeal to the Venezuelan government to act in accordance with established practices and accept the presence of international election observers.”

The statement was signed by eight members of the Shared Concern Initiative: Frederik Willem de Klerk, André Glucksmann, Vartan Gregorian, Michael Novak, Yohei Sasakawa, Desmond Tutu, Richard von Weizsäcker, and Grigory Yavlinsky.

The statement has been released to selected world media and its full text will be available on the Forum 2000 Foundation website from October 4, 2012. More information about the Initiative can be found here.

For a more detailed picture of contemporary Venezuelan politics, we encourage you to read the SCI report “Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections” which is available here. The report provides a well-informed analysis of the current political situation in Venezuela in the run-up to the October presidential election and its potential implications for the country and the international community. The report is based on a rich collection of information gathered during the fact-finding mission to Venezuela, as well as from a wide range of open sources available both in Spanish and English.

Last but not least, the 16th annual Forum 2000 Conference in Prague will host a special roundtable discussion on the outcome of the presidential election in Venezuela. The session will offer an insight into both the imminent political fallout as well as more long-term ramifications for Venezuela’s future. The conference takes place in Prague from October 21–23, 2012. More information about its program can be found here.