Venezuela: Government plans to postpone all future elections
October 7, 2016
In response to the massive protests held by the opposition in early September, the government has adopted a more defiant tone and is blocking any attempt by the opposition to contest the ruling party’s hold on power. President Nicolás Maduro said in early October that governors’ elections to be held in December would be postponed indefinitely in order to focus on mending the crumbling economy. The move, however, reflects a desperate attempt to prevent voters’ discontent inflicting another electoral blow to the government like at last year’s legislative elections.
Weeks before Maduro’s announcement, the government-controlled National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) announced tough measures to complete the critical second phase of the recall referendum. The opposition has 21 hours to collect 20% of signatures of the total electorate in each state, rather than in the whole country. The government will offer a limited number of fingerprint reading machines and electoral centers to collect the 4 million signatures from 26-28 of October. Thereafter, the CNE would need to validate the signatures and assign a date for the recall referendum to take place.
Under this scenario, the CNE will likely hold the referendum after 10 January, which would guarantee that the ruling party can stay in power until 2019. The tough terms of the recall referendum could cause the opposition to lose momentum against a government that is becoming increasingly defiant and authoritarian. That said, President Nicolás Maduro is attempting to circumvent the opposition-controlled National Assembly to approve the 2017 budget. By doing so the government would prevent the National Assembly from intervening in economic issues or influencing economic policy. There is no end in sight to the ongoing standoff between the opposition and the government, which could fuel greater social unrest and tension in the crisis-struck country.