Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told a massive crowd of supporters Saturday that the recall referendum will definitely take place in 2017, against the wishes of the opposition who want to see the vote held this year.
“If (the opposition) meet the requirements, the recall referendum will take place next year. Period,” Maduro told a crowd in a large stadium in Caracas.
The difference is important, as a vote held in 2016 would force snap elections, whereas if it takes place after he passes the four-year mark of his term in office, Jan. 10, 2017, then Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz will take over as president until the next scheduled election.
The opposition has accused electoral authorities of deliberately stalling the process. Maduro called on his political opponents to respect the rulings of the National Electoral Council.
Maduro said the delay in the vote is the fault of the opposition who failed to submit the request for a recall referendum sooner, arguing that it should have been done as early as January if they wanted to ensure that the referendum would happen this year.
He speculated that the timing was due to the fact that the opposition was hoping for a more dramatic collapse of the government, saying the opposition “tried to light the country on fire but they could not.”
Despite being united as a single coalition, the Venezuelan opposition is composed of heterogeneous grouping of political parties, each with different visions and strategies for Maduro's ouster. Divisions within the opposition coalition led to the delays in the process to begin the referendum.
The timeline for the recall vote is not without precedent, as the previous recall effort to oust then-President Hugo Chavez took approximately eight months from beginning to end.
Chavez ultimately won that vote and completed his term. Maduro said he was confident he would also triumph in a recall referendum.
The electoral authority announced Friday that 605,000 signatures submitted to Venezuelan electoral authorities by the opposition for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro were found to be defective and therefore were disqualified.