Venezuela’s Opposition Did Not Collect Enough Signatures Yet for Chavez Recall

Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) announced today that not enough valid signatures were collected by the opposition to force a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez without a further verification of signatures.

CNE board member Jorge Rodríguez.
Photo: Venpres
Caracas, Venezuela. Mar 2, 2004 ( Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced today that not enough valid signatures were collected by the opposition to force a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez without first re-verifying one million signatures directly with the signers.

After finishing the counting and validation of signatures, the Council found that only 1,832,493 signatures are valid.

2,437,080 signatures are needed to trigger the recall referendum on the President’s mandate.

The Council, by unanimous decision of the Technical Committee, decided that 876,017 signatures grant revalidation on the part of the signers, in accordance with article 31 of the CNE referenda norms, due to the fact that the forms where they are contained present similar calligraphy (filled by the same person instead of the 10 different signers per form).

233,573 signatures were invalidated by unanimous decision of the CNE Technical Committee, due to irregularities according to article 3 of CNE referenda norms. Among those irregularities are, first name, last name or ID number missing, ID number not coinciding with the one registered in the CNE, form number not appearing in the tally forms, amendments made to the forms, mutilations of the forms and the removal or alteration of security features such as serial numbers.

143,930 signatures were rejected due to signers not being registered to vote, minors, foreigners or not authorized to vote.

39,060 requests were ignored because they contained signer’s data but no signature.

The CNE processed a total of 388,108 forms, 7,297 of which were either empty or voided.

One million signatures require reconfirmation

A total of 1,109,000 signatures require reconfirmation. According to CNE board member Jorge Rodriguez, in addition to the 876,017 with similar calligraphy, some of the 377,503 invalidated signatures could be added to the reconfirmation process.

Of 1,109,000 signatures, opponents of Chavez need to reconfirm more than 640,000 in order to trigger the recall.

Two days will be given for those who signed against President Chavez, and two days to those who signed against pro-government lawmakers to reconfirm their vote. Those who show up as signers, but did not sign, can ask the CNE to remove their names from the count.

The number of centers that will be set up around the country for people to reconfirm their signatures, was increased from 1,000 to  2,700, as a result of negotiations with leaders of the opposition. The CNE will publish on a national newspaper the ID numbers of those who signed, indicating those that need reconfirmation.

Government supporters claim that the signatures with similar calligraphy were fraudulently filled by anti-Chavez volunteers after the official signature drive ended. Opponents of the President say that the similar calligraphy belongs to volunteers at the signature collection centers wanting to facilitate the process for signers.

Celebrations and protests

Working-class sections of Caracas are celebrating the announcement, as it is perceived as if the recall referendum of Chavez will not succeed.

Isolated protests have erupted in some middle-class and upper middle-class sections of Caracas, similar to those of the last four days.