CARACAS — Venezuela’s electoral authority on Wednesday ruled out a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro this year, all but dashing opposition hopes to oust him at the ballot box.
The National Electoral Council declared in a statement after meeting with the opposition and the government that "the event could be held in the middle of the first quarter of 2017".
The council also set the rules for the next step in the process, deciding that four million petition signatures, which represent 20 per cent of voters, must be gathered over three days between October 26-28.
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) had hoped to hold the referendum before January 10 because it would trigger new elections if Maduro lost by then.
But if the vote is held later, his vice president would finish his term, meaning that the socialist government inspired by late leader Hugo Chavez would remain in power until 2019.
Opposition vows to press on
MUD leader Jesus Torrealba however remained defiant, insisting that a vote in 2016 remained the goal.
He said the opposition group was meeting to decide what specific measures it will take to pressure the electoral council.
"We are working on the strategy for our fight," he said.
If enough signatures are not collected, the ballot would be called off. — AFP