CARACAS, Venezuela, April 28 (UPI) — The Venezuelan opposition gathered 200 percent more petition signatures than required in one day for the planned referendum seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition, consolidated in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, needed to gather signatures from 1 percent of Venezuela’s voting-eligible population in the first round of the petition process. The opposition gathered 600,000 signatures, three times the 200,000 needed, on Wednesday, according to National Assembly Vice President Enrique Márquez — an opposition leader.
“More than 600,000 were collected,” Márquez said Thursday. “We have not yet been able to count all because many people have spreadsheets that are not yet computed. It is totally a high number considering that the requirement of the CNE [National Electoral Council] does not reach 200,000 signatures. It is an unprecedented success.”
The opposition coalition plans to continue collecting signatures through Friday, seeking to present the CNE with at least 1 million signatures next week before entering the last phase of the petition process.
The final phase two could pose a more daunting task for the opposition, as it would need to collect signatures from 20 percent, or about 4 million, of the South American country’s voting-eligible population within three days.
The opposition is working to hold the recall referendum in which Venezuelans will be asked whether Maduro should be removed from the presidency by the end of the year. Maduro’s approval ratings are usually below 20 percent — at times dipping into single digits — meaning the likelihood of his removal is high.
The country held parliamentary elections in December, in which Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela coalition was resoundingly defeated in what was seen as a referendum on Maduro and a groundbreaking victory for the opposition.
Maduro previously served as former President Hugo Chávez’s vice president and became president after Chávez’s death in 2013. Maduro narrowly survived a constitutionally required presidential election a month after Chávez died.
Henry Ramos Allup, an opposition leader and president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, recently accused Maduro’s administration of attempting to sabotage efforts for the recall referendum by reducing public-sector work weeks to just two days.