Venezuela Says Recall Vote Could Be Held in First Quarter 2017

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s Electoral Authority said a recall vote against President Nicolas Maduro could be held in the first quarter of 2017 if all conditions were met.

In statement Wednesday evening, the Electoral Authority, or CNE, said it will issue a ruling in November on whether the referendum can proceed. Before that, the opposition must collect 20 percent of the electorate’s signatures Oct. 26-28 at the state level, instead of nationwide, to trigger a recall vote. The CNE will deploy some 5,400 voter identification machines, which one opposition-aligned rector said was insufficient to verify the roughly 4 million signatures that would be needed.

Addressing reporters outside of the electoral authority headquarters in Caracas, board member Luis Emilio Rondon said the signature drive decision was unconstitutional and lacked historical precedent. “Twenty percent was not required per entity or state in 2004,” Rondon said, referring to the opposition’s unsuccessful attempt to recall the late Hugo Chavez, “I don’t understand how the legal considerations were developed."

Squeezed by triple-digit inflation and shortages of most basic goods, Maduro’s opponents are seeking oust him by year’s end. While Maduro’s approval ratings has sunk to the low 20s, he has maintained that no recall referendum will happen in 2016.