Caracas, June 13, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced a timetable Friday for the validation of 1,352,052 signatures collected by the opposition as the first step in triggering a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
The body indicated that between June 20 and 24 the signatories must present themselves before regional CNE offices nationwide in order to biometrically validate their signatures.
On May 3, the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, submitted 1.85 million signatures, far exceeding the initial requirement of one percent of the national electorate needed to begin the recall process.
However, CNE President Tibisay Lucena revealed during a press conference Friday that 605,727 of the signatures were invalid due to a host of reasons.
307,747 lacked essential information, such as name, fingerprint, signature, as well as the name and office of the citizen who is being recalled.
Lucena confirmed that a further 53,658 signatures presented irregularities, including 10,995 dead persons, 9,333 nonexistent persons, 3,003 minors, and 1,335 felons.
All persons whose signature has been invalidated will have the right to file a formal complaint with the CNE between June 13 and 17, the top electoral official added.
MUD lawmaker Tomas Guanipa blasted the announced invalidation of 605,727 signatures, accusing the CNE of “acting criminally” in order to prevent a referendum from being held this year.
Fellow opposition parliamentarian Juan Andres Mejia also lambasted the electoral body, calling on those whose signatures have been invalidated to “become mobilizers”.
In recent weeks, MUD has convened violent street protests aimed at pressuring the CNE to accelerate the recall process.
On Thursday, opposition legislators and hundreds of supporters attempted to storm the CNE headquarters in downtown Caracas, leading to the injuring of MUD leader Julio Borges under unclear circumstances.
The CNE, for its part, has rejected the opposition demonstrations, insisting that it is following strict internal procedures that cannot be rushed.
“Any aggression, disruption of public order, or violence will result in the immediate suspension of the [recall] process until order is reestablished,” Lucena stressed on Friday.
While the MUD has accused the CNE of stalling in order to prevent a referendum from being held this year, pro-government spokespersons have fired back that the right-wing coalition delayed months in initiating the process due to internal divisions.
If the referendum is not held this year, a successful recall vote will see Vice-President Aristubolo Isturiz take over as president and finish out the remaining two years of Maduro’s term.
The CNE will have until July 26 to complete the validation of signatures.
Upon completing this step, the body will announce a three-day period for the opposition to collect a further 3.8 million signatures, which if successful, will trigger a recall referendum against Maduro.