Venezuelan high court hinders recall referendum process

The Electoral Chamber of Venezuela's Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) ruled on 17 October 2016 that in order to hold a recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro, signatures from 20 percent of the voter registry in each of the 23 states, plus the Capital District of Caracas, must be collected. The TSJ ruled that failure to do so would nullify the validity of a presidential recall referendum (Globovisión). This ruling ratifies a decision from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) to collect signatures at the state level, rather than at the constitutionally mandated national level (Efecto Cocuyo). The signatures will be collected and verified with a fingerprint scan between 26 to 28 October, and the opposition must obtain almost four million signatures to hold the recall.

Venezuela's opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is pushing to carry out the recall in 2016 to hold a new round of presidential elections. Timing is crucial, because if the referendum is held after 10 January 2017 and Maduro loses, his Vice President Aristóbulo Istúriz would finish out his term until 2019. This latest ruling from the TSJ makes the opposition's task more difficult, as the MUD must collect signatures from 20 percent of the electorate in rural states such as Delta Amacuro and Amazonas, where signature validation centers are remote and government support is stronger (Efecto Cocuyo). The TSJ and the CNE have presented yet another obstacle to the recall referendum process, making it less likely that Maduro will be removed from office in 2016.