The CNE said that the actual vote to oust Maduro in a referendum, phase three, will most likely take place next year,
Venezuela's CNE electoral authority said Wednesday the recall petition against President Nicolas Maduro can proceed to the second of three phases: collecting “manifestations of will” from at least 20% of all registered voters, some 4 million Venezuelans.
However, the CNE said that the actual vote to oust Maduro in a referendum, phase three, will most likely take place next year, negating new Presidential elections and leaving Maduro’s appointed Vice President to finish the term for him. “The event could take place in mid first quarter of 2017,” the authority said in a press release.
First reaction from opposition leaders veered from wary acceptance to outright rejection, with Maria Corina Machado saying “those conditions can’t be accepted.” She even called for the National Assembly to sack Maduro because he reportedly holds dual citizenship. However, the Maduro controlled Supreme Court moved to counter that argument weeks ago, saying only the Venezuelan nationality counts when somebody with dual citizenship is elected for the office of President and/or other high positions.
As demanded by chavista lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, only 20% of the polling stations will be open for the process. Also, a minimum of 20% voters in EACH of Venezuela’s 23 states will have to ask for the recall, instead of a nationwide average of 20% as stated in the Constitution, an additional impediment the ruling PSUV party asked for and obtained.
"For the PSUV primaries, the CNE put 8,300 machines, but for activation of the Constitutional RR only 5,300. How do you explain that to the country?," said Vicente Diaz, the sole opposition representative on the CNE.
The opposition does have one big advantage in its bid to unseat the President: Maduro’s popularity is in the single digits, according to all the latest polls. Violent crime is the number one concern of 80% of all Venezuelans, according to NGO “Observatorio del Delito Organizado” in a new poll published Wednesday, in addition to drastic shortages of food and medicine and world-record inflation.
The atleast 4 million registered voters who sign the recall petition will have only 5,392 fingerprint scanning devices at their disposal over a 3 day period. The opposition had asked for 20,000 of the 40,000 scanners the CNE has available.
During the first stage, only 400,000 signatures and fingerprints could be verified using 1,000 machines over a five day period.
The collection of the 20% will take place on three days in October, the 26th,27th and the 28th, CNE head Tibisay Lucena said during a press conference. The announcement was supposed to have been made long ago or even on Friday, according to the delayed schedule Lucena announced weeks ago. The opposition, which started the process back in April with plenty of time, has denounced the CNE for unduly delaying the recall vote so that it takes place after January 10th, 2017, so that the Chavista government remains in power.
Underscoring Maduro’s declining popularity, unions that organize public transportation drivers staged a 7 hour protest in Caracas Wednesday and threatened with a nationwide strike for Thursday, the first in more than a decade, if the government does not let them increase the fare to Bs 100 (around ten US dollar cents). Ironically, Maduro started his career in politics as a bus driver and union organizer in that same industry.
LAHT | By Carlos Camacho