Tibisay Lucena, the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), confirmed in a news conference today that the much-anticipated recall referendum against Maduro will not take place this year.
Lucena explained that the second step of the recall process – collecting signatures from 20% of registered voters – would likely take place in late October at the earliest, but left open the possibility that unforeseen delay could cause that process to start later. Under the best possible conditions for the opposition, the signatures could be approved by the end of November, from which point the CNE would have 90 days to hold the recall, placing the event possibly in the end of February
The opposition wants to hold the recall referendum before January 10, 2017 because if Maduro loses, a presidential election would be triggered. Given the PSUV’s unpopularity, the opposition would have a very good chance of winning the election. However, if the recall happens after January 10, 2017 and Maduro loses, the VP – a PSUV politician – would become president until 2019.
At the moment, Aristobulo Isturiz is the vice-president, but it is plausible that he would be replaced before the recall took place in order to ensure the ascension of a stronger, more hard-line official to the office of president.
Lucena explained the timeline going forward in the following way:
If all of the established requirements are met, [then] the collection of the 20% of signatures would happen at the end of October – once all of the established requirements are met.
After this, according to the regulations and, again, after the end of October, the CNE can take between 28 and 29 days to make – if all of the requirements are met – the call for the recall referendum. This would take place according to the regulations: the recall referendum would take place within 90 days from its announcement.
Although opposition politicians long accused the CNE that it was deliberately attempting to slow down the recall process to benefit the PSUV, today’s announcement makes it clear that the recall referendum will not take place in 2016, and that PSUV rule in Venezuela will continue until at least 2019.
While Lucena did not explicitly say that the recall would not happen this year, the outline she provided this year makes it a definite certainty that the event will occur in 2017, most likely in mid-late February.
Cabello: We Told You So!
PSUV vice-president and National Assembly deputy Diosdado Cabello spoke on Lucena’s announcement today, saying that the opposition were “the only ones to blame” for the recall referendum not happening this year since, according to Cabello, they should have started the process back in January.
Cabello also pointed out that he has been stating repeatedly throughout the year that the referendum could not happen this year:
We’ve been telling you for a long time that it was impossible to hold a [recall referendum] in 2016. The opposition leadership has lied to its people once again.
Florido: CNE is “Playing with the Peace” of Venezuelans
National Assembly MUD deputy Luis Florido reacted to Lucena’s announcement earlier today, calling it another “maneuver” to benefit the PSUV over the desire of the majority of Venezuelans.
Florido also criticized the CNE and its rectors for being partial to Maduro during this process, saying:
The rectors have had to defend the Executive [Maduro] during his worst time. It’s a very serious thing that they’re playing with the peace of Venezuelans.
On Maduro’s massive unpopularity, Florido said that the country was traversing a “delicate moment” since, while it is obvious that Venezuelans no longer want Maduro as president, the CNE appears to be “closing the doors to the change that Venezuela needs”.
Florido also spoke on the important of the recall referendum as a legal right afforded by the constitution, saying:
The recall is a duty because it’s established in the constitution. You don’t beg for your rights: you demand them. There must be public pressure for the rectors and state institutions to follow the [constitution].
Capriles: Lucena “Doesn’t Dare” To Say Recall Won’t Happen in 2016
In his reaction to Lucena’s announcement, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles accused the head of the CNE of being deliberately obscure in her speech in order to avoid having to mislead and confuse Venezuelans. Capriles said:
What Mrs. Lucena doesn’t dare say – after that exercise in cynicism [that was her speech] – what she doesn’t dare say it that the recall will not happen this year. She doesn’t dare to face the nation and tell them that the recall won’t happen.
Lucena’s speech was also marked by the use of words like “maybe” or “may happen”. Capriles took aim at this sort of language, saying:
The country won’t accept “may happen”. This is our constitutional right and we will make it count. We will mobilize throughout all of Venezuela on September 1.
Venezuelans want a solution that is found in the constitution. Neither Mrs. Lucena nor the other rectors own the constitution. We will stand firm and continue to build political change for 2016.
Torrealba: Recall Will Happen This Year
The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, was defiant in his comments against Lucena today, saying that the recall would indeed take place this year. He also stressed the importance of the march scheduled in Caracas for September 1, saying:
We will all meet on September 1 in Caracas during the Gran Toma de Caracas [literally, “the Great Takeover of Caracas”] because we have to be precise and respectful in our demands on behalf of the people of Venezuela for the date for the collection of the 20% [of signatures].
Torrealba also said:
[The recall in 2016 is] technically possible, politically pertinent and socially indispensable.
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