Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 27, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan opposition failed to collect the minimum number of signatures required to activate a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on Thursday that only 42,421 people signed up at 1,200 voting centers set up across the country the day before for the process. The number fell significantly short of the 4.1 million signatures needed to move the referendum forward.
With the result representing just 1.01 percent of the national electorate, “the request for a recall referendum is declared inadmissible,” stated the CNE on Twitter. The electoral authority added that a new initiative would not be permitted as determined by the Constitution.
“The attempt to activate a recall referendum against President Maduro fails. The opposition would need 83 days to achieve its goal [at this rate],” Communications Minister Freddy Ñañez wrote on Twitter.
The signature collection phase was held on Wednesday following the CNE’s approval of a recall referendum request made by three opposition groups: the Venezuelan Movement for the Recall (Mover), All United for the Recall Referendum, and the National Executive Committee of Confedejunta with the Committee of National and International Democracy.
According to Article 72 of the 1999 Constitution, voters can revoke a public official through a recall referendum after the midpoint in his or her term. In early January, President Maduro entered the second half of his second mandate which ends in January 2025.
However, a snap election can only be triggered if 20 percent of the electoral roll signs the recall petition in each of the country’s 23 states and the capital, following rules established by the Supreme Court (TSJ) in 2016, when a previous recall effort also failed to be activated in the wake of alleged irregularities in the process.
For the current process to move forward, around 4.1 million voters out of 20.9 million of the country’s electoral roll were required to sign up. If this step was completed successfully, over 25 percent of the electorate then had to participate in the recall vote.
Additionally, an official is only removed if the number of votes surpasses what he/she received when elected, otherwise, the process will be considered null. In Maduro’s case, the number to beat was the 6.2 million votes he got in the 2018 presidential contest. In the recent regional election, the main opposition parties’ national vote count was around 4 million.
Wednesday’s very low turnout came as no surprise, with social media users showing photos of mostly empty voting centers. The Vice President of the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello, had likewise foreseen the process’ failure citing unofficial reports.
"Why would they put the country through this knowing they didn't have the numbers?" he asked during his weekly TV show.
For their part, the recall promoters had previously denounced that the conditions set by the electoral authority were impossible to meet, calling on the population not to participate.
Nicmer Evans, leader of Mover, complained that the 12-hour window to collect the signatures was unconstitutional. He announced his organization would introduce an appeal for annulment before the Supreme Court to restart the process with a new schedule.
“Yesterday (January 26) there were not 40,000 signatures, there were zero because the process was void. The signature collection will only count when there is a constitutional and adequate schedule,” said Evans on Thursday during a Zoom press conference.
The recall referendum drive also suffered from main political actors not throwing their weight behind the effort. According to Venezuelan political analyst Clodovaldo Hernández, the country’s most important right-wing parties are divided “between endorsing elections and promoting abstention.”
"They lack a common strategy which prevented them from engaging in a recall vote, especially one that happened so quickly," Hernández told Venezuelanalysis.
The veteran journalist considered that the only path forward for opposition parties is to focus on the 2024 presidential race. “The opposition has to go through a restructuring process, build its unity and hold an internal election to choose a single candidate,” he said.
With the recall vote ruled out, Hernández believes that the possibility to restart the dialogue process in Mexico between the Maduro government and the US-backed opposition re-enters the political agenda.
“However, the talks are not likely to resume anytime soon,” he concluded.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.