Venezuela’s Electoral Council and Opposition Near Agreement on Timeframe for Recall Process

The National Electoral Council proposes to postpone regional elections until September if a presidential recall referendum is approved. Final results of negotiations between elections council and opposition coalition on the recall petition "repair" process are expected for today.

Caracas, April 5, 2004—Over the weekend, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), issued a possible timeline for the recall referenda and the regional elections. According to this proposal, the “repair” process, which will give Venezuelan citizens the opportunity to either re-certify their signatures or to remove them from the recall petitions, would take place during the second half of May. If, at the end of the “repair” process, the presidential recall petition is approved, the presidential recall referendum could take place in the first week of August. As a result, the regional elections of governors, mayors, and state legislators would be postponed from August 1st to early September.

Jorge Rodriguez, member of the national electoral council, made the announcement of the new timeline proposal. The final agreement between CNE and opposition is supposed to be announced today.

Prior to any possible agreement, however, the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator (CD) issued a statement today, which outlines three conditions for it to participate in the recall petition “repair” process. According to Felipe Mujica, one of the spokespersons for the CD, said, “the process must be auditable prior to the [repair] event.” He called upon all observers to go to the CNE office nearest to them and to observe their proceedings. The second condition is that the process be efficient. The CD thus recommends that sufficient tables be set up at each polling location, so that long lines would be avoided. The third condition is that the scheduling of the process assures that an eventual recall referendum would take place before August 19. According to some interpretations of the constitution, August 19 is the cut-off date, after which the Vice-President would serve out the remainder of the Presidential term instead of having new elections, were the President be recalled from office.

Mujica concluded by saying that if these conditions are fulfilled, the opposition “would be disposed to participate in the repair mechanism, so that we win the right to be counted.”

The tentative CNE timeline proposes that for April 15 a final accounting of all signatures for all of the recall referendum petitions would be ready. While the CNE has presented numbers on several occasions, both the Democratic Coordinator and the government coalition parties have issued objections to the figures and requested corrections. Then, between April 16 and 30 the lists would be published in the national press, so that citizens would know whether they need to participate in the repair process. May 13 to 17 would be the “repair” process for the recall petitions against opposition legislators and May 20 to 24 would be the repair process for the presidential recall petition and for those of opposition legislators.

William Lara, spokesperson for the government coalition, Comando Ayacucho, issued a statement today, saying that the parties that support the government would be opposed to any postponement of the regional elections. Lara said, the CNE must “abide by and respect what is said in the constitution.” He added, the CNE “lacks the constitutional faculties for prolonging the period of an elected official,” which is why the regional elections must take place before the term in office of the current elected officials expires.