As part of the first step to the recall referendum process, individuals or political organizations must submit an application for organizing the recall referendum’s petition drive. Last Monday, Sept. 29, both opposition and pro-government representatives submitted recall applications at the same time. The opposition representatives submitted just one application, for recalling President Chavez. Pro-government representatives submitted an application for the recall of 46 elected representatives of the opposition, including mayors, state governors, and for members of the national assembly.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) then had two days to rule on the acceptance of these petitions and on Wednesday it ruled that all submitted applications had been accepted. The CNE’s president , Francisco Carrasquero, upon announcing the acceptance of the applications, also said that those seeking recall referenda now have five days to submit a list of the locations where they plan on collecting signatures for the recall petition drive, which is the second step in the recall process. Also, in the coming 20 days, the CNE will announce its recall petition observers, which will be two for every location.
Both government and opposition supporters expressed satisfaction about the CNE’s acceptance of the applications. Pro-government legislator Celia Flores said that her party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) was in the process of selecting the petition locations and witnesses, since they do not want to solely rely on those named by the CNE.
“We are already preparing. The council will have its own observers, but we too will have ours because we will not permit another fraud. We do not underestimate the opposition’s capacity to cheat,” said Flores. She also said that the MVR had considered the possibility of not calling recall referenda for mayors and governors, since their term ends in July and a recall would shorten their term in office by only a few months. However, they ultimately decided to organize recall referenda for almost all elected members of the opposition. “Even if it is only a day beforehand, we will exercise this revolutionary right. Any time we can take from them would benefit the country. Now we will submit more applications of mayors, assembly deputies, and city council members,” added Flores.
The next steps in the recall process are the collection of signatures from at least 20% of the electors of the office in question. In the case of President Chavez, this means that the opposition must collect at least 2.4 million signatures in favor of a recall referendum. The signatures may be collected over a period of four days.
The CNE is considering a signature collection schedule of 6am to 6pm per day. In the case of the presidential recall petition, if all goes well for the opposition, the collection days could be at the end of October. The CNE then has 97 days to verify the signatures and, if valid, convokes the recall referendum. For an official to be removed from office, at least as many have to vote against the elected official as originally vote for him or her and more than half of those voting have to vote for the recall.