- Electoral council says signature collection likely in October
- Delaying referendum would let socialist party keep power
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council dashed the opposition’s hopes of holding a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro this year in a move that will likely heighten political tensions in the South American country.
Electoral council chief Tibisay Lucena on Tuesday announced several procedural details including a late-October date for signature collection and a new 90-day verification period that would clearly push the referendum into the coming year.
“If all the established requirements are met, the gathering of the 20 percent of needed signatures will probably occur toward the end of October,” Lucena said at a presentation in Caracas, adding that the CNE, as the electoral council is known, would then have 90 days to verify the signatures before setting a date for the referendum.
Venezuela’s opposition has accused the government of trying to delay the referendum into the coming year, which would allow the vice president to take over if Maduro is recalled and let the ruling socialist party hang on to power until 2019. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles renewed calls for supporters to march to Caracas from across the country on Sept. 1 and said the there was no legal or technical reason not to hold the referendum this year.
The country’s benchmark dollar bonds due in 2027 fell 0.41 cent to 46.18 cents on the dollar at 3:40 p.m. in New York after gaining as much as 0.46 cent earlier in the day.
Capriles, speaking after Lucena’s presentation, slammed the announcement and urged opposition supporters to demand that the recall referendum be held this year.
“It’s still possible to have change this year,” Capriles said in comments carried on the Globovision television network. “Lucena didn’t dare say directly that there won’t be a referendum this year because she knows that blocking democracy would put the country in a dangerous and complicated situation.”
He previously announced the march, dubbed the “Great Takeover of Caracas,” on Saturday. The opposition will use the rest of the month to organize the logistics needed for a march of such scale, he added.
Venezuela’s government has “no intention of allowing a recall vote to occur this year and will continue to drag its feet throughout the process so as to push it into 2017,” Eurasia Group analysts Risa Grais-Targow and Agata Ciesielska wrote in research note Aug. 1.
Opposition alliance secretary Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba said last week that there was still enough time for the referendum to be held this year, which would trigger fresh elections if Maduro is recalled. In the first phase of the process to solicit a referendum, the opposition collected around 400,000 valid signatures, exceeding the requirement to gather verified signatures from one percent of registered voters in all 24 states.