Washington, D.C.—On September 21, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced a number of requirements for the process of gathering signatures in support of a recall referendum regarding the Presidency of Nicolás Maduro.
WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) respects the significant advances that the CNE has made in expanding the right to vote among formerly excluded populations, and in facilitating the automation of the voting process over the last fifteen years. However these conditions, combined with the many hurdles that authorities have placed on the process so far, appear unjustly designed to ensure that such a referendum does not occur this year.
As such, WOLA urges the CNE to respect constitutional norms and use its full technical capacity to move the referendum process forward in a timely manner. We urge the following:
- That, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution, the CNE clarify that the 20 percent threshold of signatures from the electorate should be measured at the national level, and not at the level of individual states.
- That the CNE increase the number of voting machines and voting centers available for this process. While electoral authorities have over 14,000 voting centers at their disposal, they have said that they will use 1,356 of them, equipped with just 5,392 machines to gather the more than 3.9 million signatures necessary to trigger the referendum. Electoral norms dictate that all Venezuelans who appear in the voting registry have the right to access voting centers.
- That the CNE modify its timeline for verifying the results of this signature drive, and devote all of its available resources in order to do so in a timely fashion. Officials have said that the results of the signature collection will be determined in late November, yet this long delay is unnecessary. The CNE has already demonstrated a technical capacity to quickly determine the results in more complicated and extensive electoral events than this, and should apply this capacity to the referendum process.
- Finally, if all of the above conditions are met we firmly believe that—provided that signatures are gathered from 20 percent of the electorate, nationwide—the CNE can organize a recall referendum to be held in the first half of December.
As a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas, WOLA does not seek to take a position in partisan politics, which should be reserved for Venezuelans. Rather we are concerned with a curtailment of a fundamental human right, the right of the people to choose their leaders and exercise control over them. The instrument of the recall referendum represents an admirable expansion of political rights stemming from the 1999 Constitution and should be respected. We urge the CNE to ensure that the recall referendum process is carried out in accordance with the law and in a way that prioritizes the expression of the will of the people.