Venezuela opposition claims enough signatures to oust president

Caracas, June 25 (IANS) Venezuelan opposition leaders announed they have validated enough signatures on a petition to move to the next stage in a process to out President Nicolas Maduro in a recall referendum.

Referendum co-ordinator Vicente Bello on Friday said the number of signatures had “clearly exceeded the minimum needed”, BBC reported.

The process must now be validated by electoral officials.

If that step is passed, a second petition must be signed by four million people before a recall referendum can be held.

The opposition has blamed Maduro’s socialist policies for rampant inflation and shortages of food and basic goods.

The initial petition handed in on May 2 gathered almost two million signatures but election officials said 600,000 of those were fraudulent.

Those who signed the petition had until Friday to have their identity cards and fingerprints checked in centres set up by the National Electoral Council (CNE).

Only 1 per cent of the electorate, or 194,729 voters, is needed to endorse the referendum in the first phase.

Many people queued for hours to have their signatures authenticated by electronic fingerprinting.

Opposition leaders want the recall vote to be held this year, as its timing is key for what happens next.

If the referendum is held before January 10, 2017, and goes against Maduro, fresh elections will be triggered.

But if the vote were to be held after January 10, 2017 – in the last two years of Maduro’s mandate – he would be replaced by his vice-president and supporter, Aristobulo Isturiz.

Maduro was elected in April 2013 and his term runs until 2019.

–IANS

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