Very Confident Chavez Would Welcome Venezuela Recall Referendum

The President said he would prefer if his opponents manage to obtain enough valid signatures for a recall referendum, predicted his victory, and admitted that government social programs will help him survive a recall referndum.

Chavez admitted that his government’s social programs benefiting the poor will help him get votes in an eventual recall referendum.
Credit: Venpres

Caracas, May 23, 2004 ( – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reiterated today his willingness to accept a recall referendum on his mandate in case his opponents manage to revalidate enough signatures to demand the referendum during the signature repair process next week.

Of the 3.4 million signatures submitted by the opposition to demand a recall referendum on the President, electoral authorities rejected 380,000 and determined that 1,192,914 signatures that present irregularities could be recovered during a “signature repair” process.

Due to a high number of irregularities in the signatures collected by Chavez opponents to demand his recall, electoral authorities decided to allow Venezuelans whose signatures have either been invalidated or placed under observation to confirm that they intended to sign the petition and thereby validate their signature. Also, citizens who appear on the petition forms but who say they did not sign, or signed under pressure, have the opportunity to remove their names from the petition.

Repairs underway

As part of an ongoing electoral solution to the current political conflict, from Friday and until today, those who signed to demand recall referenda on opposition lawmakers, have had the opportunity to repair their signatures. No results have been announced yet, but according to unofficial numbers, signatures repaired on Friday and Saturday are enough to trigger recall referenda on at least five additional lawmakers. More signatures are being repaired today.

Opponents of the President must validate about 600,000 signatures during the second part of the repair process to be held from May 28 until the 30th. The President hoped the opposition signature repair goes without any major incidents.

During his weekly live TV show, Chavez urged those who had the intention of signing against him, but whose signatures were invalidated, to go and revalidate them. However, he said that if he really had control over the courts or over electoral authorities, as his opponents suggest, he would have declared the petitions with irregularities invalid, and not given the opportunity for repair. “The coup plotters who are free right now would be in jail, if I controlled the judicial system,” said Chavez.

Chavez signature invalid

The President complained that his signature against opposition lawmakers was declared invalid by electoral authorities with no possibility for repair. It is unknown why the leaders’ signature was tossed out, “but we must respect the arbiter’s decision,” said Chavez.

The President highlighted the fact that it was he who made the initial proposal to the elected Constituency Assembly to incorporate recall and law repeal referenda in the new Constitution that was drafted in 1999. Opposition delegates to the Constituency Assembly actually voted against the referenda proposal at the time.

President wants referendum

“I don’t know what’s going to happen on Thursday, but I have a premonition. If they [the opposition] repair enough signatures, we will welcome it because the knockout they will receive in an eventual referendum would be historical. The best thing for the opposition would be that there was no referendum… I would actually prefer it if the referendum was held,” said the President.

“If 3.7 million voted for me four years ago, today I would get at least 4 million votes,” said the Venezuelan leader.
Credit: Venpres

Chavez pointed to the fact that the opposition would have to collect 3.7 million votes in one day, in contrast with the 3.4 million signatures they claim to have collected in four days back in December.

“Assuming they did collect those 3.4 million signatures, let’s not take into account those dead who appear as signers, those who signed three or four times, or the “writing exercises” petitions (filled by one person), you must remember that you [the opposition] need to collect 3.7 million votes in only one day.

The President reminded that those who support him can also participate in the referendum to demand that he stay in power. “If 3.7 million voted for me four years ago, today I would get at least 4 million votes, at least.”

Social programs and economic recovery win votes

Chavez admitted that the government’s social programs benefiting the poor will help him get votes. His opponents have recently argued that the main reason for the programs’ existance is winning votes to stay in power.

Almost 3 million Venezuelans have joined the educational and job creation social programs or “Missions” implemented by the government, “without counting those who have benefited from the Barrio Adentro (healthcare for poor communities) Mission”, said Chavez. According to the President, 95% of them are eligible to vote, and a big percentage of those did not have ID cards so they could not vote in the previous elections that he won by a landslide. “But they now have gotten their ID cards, they have been registering as voters, and they are going to vote,” said Chavez while laughing. Chavez warned against overconfidence, “but these are the real numbers.”

“The biggest risk we face would be my assassination,” said the President.

Likely to stay in power

An encouraging 30% GDP growth of the economy in the first quarter, as compared with the same period last year, and a divided opposition with no solid alternative platform, will surely help Chavez to keep enough voters happy to stay in power.

Wall Street firms such as Bear Stearns and Fitch Ratings have predicted that the Venezuelan leader is likely to finish his term, surviving the eventual recall referendum on his mandate this year. “Not only is President Chavez likely to finish his term in office, but recent polls suggest he has excellent chances to win re-election in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2006,” said a Bear Stearns report earlier this year. Since then, Chavez’s poll numbers have increased slightly more.

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