Caracas, March 29, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela’s National Electoral Council approved requests to initiate recall procedures against 19 more elected officials. Also, the Council announced that signatures in support of recall referenda will be collected June 16 to 18.
With the approval of these new requests for recall procedures, the total number of elected officials that could face a recall referendum is now 46. Last week the National Electoral Council (CNE) had already approved recall processes for four governors, 20 mayors, and four state legislators.
Among the new officials that citizen groups would like to recall are Freddy Bernal, the mayor of the largest municipality of Caracas, Libertador, and the governor of Yaracuy state, Carlos Gimenez. Together, the new batch of possible recall candidates includes 11 mayors, one governor, and 7 state legislators.
This means that on June 16, 17, and 18, the CNE will organize a signature collection process, whereby the groups initiating the recall process must collect signatures from at least 20% of registered voters in each of the elected official’s district. The signatures will be collected with the help of fingerprint scanners, so as to accelerate the process of verifying the signatures.
The recall process against President Chavez, where opposition groups collected signatures in December 2003, suffered tremendous delays due to conflicts over the validity of the signatures. The presidential recall referendum was thus not held until eight months after the signatures had been collected. This time the CNE hopes to have referenda organized in a much shorter time span.
“We are doing everything necessary to guarantee that the recall referenda are realized,” said Sandra Oblitas, one of the five CNE directors. She conceded, though, that the timing would be tight because the terms of governors and mayors expire on October 31, 2008 and if the referenda are held towards the end of 2007, successful referenda would mean that officials are removed from office a mere ten months before the end of their term.
Several party leaders have said that their parties would not participate in the recall process, since it makes little sense to remove officials so shortly before there is a new election. Enrique Marquez of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT – A New Time) said, “It is better to wait a year instead of spending hundreds of billions [of bolivars] on this.” Similarly, leaders of the pro-government parties PCV (Communist Party), PPT (Fatherland For All), and MVR (Movement for a Fifth Republic) said they would not support the recall effort, even though they support the citizen right in principle.
So far, the recall referenda have been initiated by a wide variety of pro- and anti-government citizen groups.
If the 20% of registered voters’ signatures are collected in favor of a referendum, then at least as many voters have to vote in favor of the recall as originally voted for the candidate. In some cases, such as Caracas Mayor Freddy Bernal, the number of votes needed to recall him is extremely high, since he won with 74% of the vote in October 2004. Also, for the vote to be valid, at least 25% of registered voters have to participate in the referendum.