Venezuela’s Recall Process Allowed to Continue With Supreme Court Ruling

A new ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, allows electoral authorities to continue with the process of revalidation of signatures to request a recall referendum against President Chavez

Ivan Rincon, President of Venezuela’s Supreme Court.
Photo: Venpres

Caracas, Venezuela. Mar 23 ( The Constitutional Chamber of Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared as null a previous ruling by the Court’s Electoral Chamber with regard to the validity of hundreds of thousands of signatures collected by opponents of President Hugo Chavez to request a recall referendum against him.

The now voided sentence by the Court’s Electoral Chamber had ruled that over 800,000 signatures where personal data and/or signatures appeared to be filled out with similar handwriting would have to be counted as valid by the National Electoral Council when deciding if a recall referendum must be held against President Chavez.

The Court’s Electoral Chamber had nullified norms by the National Electoral Council with regard to determining the validity of the signatures. The Court’s Constitutional Chamber considers that the Electoral Chamber violated the principles of independence of the Electoral Branch and the principles of division of power on which formal Democracy is based. Venezuela’s new Constitution provides for five branches of government, instead of the usual three.

Likewise, the Electoral Chamber violated the right of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to defend their decision with regard to the signatures to request the referenda.

The Electoral Chamber also disobeyed the Constitutional Chamber’s temporary explicit prohibition of ruling over the CNE decisions on referenda.

The new decision by the Constitutional Chamber, which was read by the Court’s president Ivan Rincon, ratified the competence of the Electoral Branch of government to decide on the norms that regulate electoral processes and referenda, as well as deciding on the authenticity of the petitioners requesting referenda.

With this decision by the Court, the National Electoral Council (CNE) is now free to continue with the process of revalidation of signatures to decide if the opposition collected enough valid signatures to request a recall referendum against President Chavez.

On March 2nd, The CNE ruled that a total of 1,109,000 signatures must be revalidated by the signers 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). Signing to request a referendum is a personal act, according to article 31 of the CNE referenda norms. Only in cases of physical impediments, another person is allowed sign the petition.

With the CNE’s March 2nd ruling, 1.1 million signatures would be subject to revalidation by those who appear as signers, so those listed who don’t confirm their identities would be excluded from the final count.

The CNE decided earlier this month that 2,700 centers will be set up around the country so that people can reconfirm their identities and willingness to sign. Those who don’t show up will have their signatures disqualified from the count. Those whose signatures were used without their consent, can request the CNE to count them out. Sectors of the Government argue that the opposition committed fraud by using people’s data without their authorization. The opposition argues that the forms with similar calligraphy were filled in advance by volunteers to speed up the signature collection process, allowing people to stamp their signature and fingerprint.

“With the process of revalidation of signatures, the fraud committed by the opposition will be unveiled, that’s why they want to block this at all cost,” said Juan Barreto, a National Assembly Deputy from Chavez’s political party.