After rejecting three previous requests for petition sheets, Venezuela’s electoral commission released the documents yesterday that allow the opposition to begin the constitutional process of removing President Nicolas Maduro from office, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Peter Stein writes.
The petition is only the first step in a long, arduous process sure to be fraught with obstacles from Maduro’s government. Once the opposition gets the 200,000 signatures necessary to complete this petition, they will then need around four million signatures to complete the second petition, after which point a referendum is constitutionally warranted. Furthermore, the referendum must happen before the end of 2016 if there are to be elections for Maduro’s replacement – otherwise, Vice President Jorge Arreaza will finish out the remainder of the term, which expires in 2019.
While the road to removing Maduro is steep, the economic crisis plaguing Venezuela has left many citizens seeking redress. The Financial Times reports that “by Wednesday morning, around a thousand people were queueing outside the Bello Monte subway station in Caracas, keen to be the first to add their signatures.”
Meanwhile, other attempts at reform by opposition lawmakers in Congress have been hampered by Maduro’s monopoly on both executive and judicial power, the most recent being the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s annulment of a new law to free political prisoners.