Venezuela’s Opposition to Challenge Recall Referendum of Lawmakers in Supreme Court

Several of the nine opposition legislators that are to face a recall referendum on December 5 said that they will challenge the refrendum in the Supreme Court. They argue that many of the regulations governing referenda were violated.

Caracas, November 12, 2004—Opposition representatives in the National Assembly, who are to face a recall referendum, have rejected the possibility of resigning their posts before the December 5 referenda date scheduled by the country’s electoral authority (CNE) and will challenge the legitimacy of the referendum at the Supreme Court of Venezuela.

The nine opposition representatives whose positions are in jeopardy have not uniformly accepted the referendum process, with some choosing to contest the legitimacy of the upcoming referendum at the highest court in the country.

Wilfredo Febres, a representative for the opposition party, Acción Democracitca, said that while he will participate in the referendum, he will also protest the irregularities of the process that led to the referendum.  In November last year, enough signatures were collected in order to trigger this December’s recall process.

“The process was not managed spotlessly; we were not given certified copies of the signatures in order to refute them if that was the case, among other irregularities. Also the time to call the referendum has expired according to electoral regulations.  It should have been called within 97 consecutive days after the collection of signatures, which did not occur,” Febres said.

César Pérez Vivas, an opposition party Copei representative, said that he will not resign and he will also take the case to the Supreme Court to defend himself.  “I am still working on the judicial study to determine what recourse to take and where in the Supreme Court to present it,” Perez said. He added that he will be presenting his case by early next week.

Meanwhile, Carlos Berrizbeitia from opposition party, Proyecto Venezuela (PV), also said that he will not resign, but unlike other representatives has not indicated he will contest the referendum in the Supreme Court.  “I am not going to resign because the post is not mine, but belongs to the electorate who voted for me.  What I ask is that they give me the same conditions as the [referendum] process for the President,” Berrizbeitia said.

Berrizbeitia said that in order to revoke him, it would take the participation of 58,000 voters.  “If they transparently revoke me, of course I will leave my post, but this will not affect PV because the alternate representative is from the same party,” he said.

Abstention will favor opposition candidates

Given high rates of abstention during regional elections (55%), and high numbers of participation required by CNE regulations to revoke National Assembly representatives, the nine opposition leaders are seen to be favored during the upcoming referendum.

The constitution stipulates that the number of votes required to revoke a representative must be equal or more to the number of votes reached by that representative to win his/her post.  On top of this, the constitution requires that the total number of votes during the referendum be equal or more than 25% of the Electoral Registry in order to legally recall representatives.

The Electoral Registry to be used during this mini referendum will be that compiled last July.  And since this election will take place in only 8 states and 31 municipalities, 1,854,986 voters are eligible to participate.

Given the constitution’s stipulations, to revoke representatives is apparently more difficult than to elect them.  For example, Isabel Calderon, a representative for the opposition Acción Democratica party in the state of Amazonas was elected with 5,037 votes in the municipality of Atures.  To revoke her requires at least 5,038 votes.  But to be legally binding, at least 10,096 voters must participate in the referendum. This number represents 25% of the registered electorate of Atures, which is 40,384.

In the state of Trujillo, government supporters will need more than 43,000 votes to oust opposition state representative Conrado Perez and the participation of at least 95,147 people since there are 380,585 registered voters. 

Abstention during the regional elections in Trujillo reached 48%.