Caracas, March 22, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela’s National Electoral Council announced that it had approved of 28 requests for the initiation of recall referenda against governors and mayors. The Council’s president, Tibisay Lucena, announced the decision yesterday. The approval of the requests is the first step out of three in having elected officials removed from office.
Venezuela’s 1999 constitution allows for citizens to petition for the holding recall referenda against all elected government officials halfway through their term in office. According to the referendum rules of the National Electoral Council (CNE), the first step in such a process is that groups that want to have a recall referendum, must submit a request to the CNE.
According to Lucena, recall procedures against Didalco Bolívar, the governor of Aragua state, against Tarek William Saab of Anzoátegui state, against Francisco Rángel of Bolívar state, and against Antonio Rodríguez of the state of Vargas were approved. All four are part of the pro-Chavez coalition. Also approved were recall procedures for 20 mayors and four state legislators.
Once a request is approved, in a second step the CNE organizes the logistics for a signature collections drive. If at least 20% of registered voters in the elected official’s district sign the petition for a recall referendum, then a recall referendum must be convoked, which represents the third step.
The first and so far only time Venezuelans have made use of this power was for the August 15, 2004 recall referendum against President Chavez, which he won with 59% of the vote.
The signature collection drives for all of the recall referendum petitions will take place on the same days, said Lucena. Supporters of the referenda will probably have two days in which to sign the petitions.
Also, the drives will make use of fingerprint scanners, so as to make sure that people do not forge signatures.
According to the recall referendum rules, the petitions will remain completely confidential this time, unlike the last time, when the list of those who signed for a recall referendum against President Chavez became public. The list was then used, according to critics of the government, to bar signers from government jobs and services.
Lucena said that there are 13 more requests for the initiation of recall referendum procedures that the CNE must still evaluate, which it will do in the next few days.
Last Sunday Chavez publicly criticized the governor of the state of Aragua, Didalco Bolivar, who Chavez said appears to be upset that recall procedures had been activated against him. “Well, against me they activated a recall referendum and I did not get angry. I went out onto the streets to see who would win the battle,” said Chavez.