The National Electoral Council (CNE) passed new rules on Friday which regulate the activity of observers during the signature collection process for the recall referenda and political advertisements. According the CNE’s president, Francisco Carrasquero, international observers should respect the principles of transparency and impartiality, “since they are not political actors and as a result cannot give opinions about the issues involved in the recall referenda.”
Jorge Rodriguez, one of the principal members of the CNE also announced that on Monday the CNE would sign a contract with the telephone company, CANTV, so that irregularities and results of the signature collection drives would be phoned to CNE headquarters on secure lines, via cell phones. About 2,700 cell phones would be provided for this, one in each of the signature collection locations.
With respect to political advertisements, Carrasquero said that recall referendum campaigns would be limited to two minutes per day for each side. During the verification process of the signatures, which is to last all of December, all kinds of political advertisements regarding the referenda will be prohibited. Both opposition and pro-government representatives expressed support for this rule. Anyone breaking this rule would be fined.
The opposition spokesperson for media issues, however, said that he hoped the CNE would issue rules governing the usage of “cadenas,” the simultaneous hookups of all radio and television broadcasts for government programming. Pro-government legislator William Lara, however, said that such a rule is not part of the CNE’s mandate, since the telecommunications law regulates the “cadenas.”
The Signature Collection is Not the Same as the Recall Referendum
Carrasquero clarified during a press conference on Thursday that the signature collection process for recall referenda against the president and against opposition legislators is not the same as the recall referendum itself. A signature in favor of a recall referendum simply indicates a preference for having the referendum, not which way a person intends to vote in the actual referendum.
Recently several opposition spokespersons have suggested that if more signatures are collected than the President received when he was elected in 2000, then he ought to resign immediately, since this is how many votes are necessary to recall the president during the referendum.