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Venezuela: Electoral body suspends referendum campaign against Maduro

The electoral body, citing court orders suspended the collection of signatures next week against President Nicolas Maduro. Photograph: (AFP)

WION Caracas, Capital District, Venezuela Oct 21, 2016, 01.07 AM (IST)

Venezuela's electoral commission on Thursday suspended the signature collection process needed to initiate a referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. 

The electoral body said it was abiding by court's orders which had ruled against the opposition's move to remove Maduro. The collection drive was planned for next week. 

Venezuela is experiencing economic crisis, food shortage and triple-digit inflation. It's in this turbulent context that many people, including the opposition, are calling for change. 

The opposition slammed the electoral commission's decision as undemocratic, a move to evade the vote against the socialist president. The center-right opposition has been trying to remove Maduro from power through a series of petitions, which now appear impossible, AFP reported.

Opposition lawmaker Jorge Millán tweeted, "We have a government of thieves using power to maintain itself, but in the street the people are demanding a recall, and no one will stop us!" Reuters reported. 

The opposition MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) coalition alleges that Maduro and his supporters control the courts and election officials in order to stay in power. 

The opposition needs to acquire signatures from 20 per cent of the people in each one of Venezuela's 24 states, which polls show they are poised to get if only the court allowed them to begin this signature collecting process, before a referendum could take place.

The opposition is trying to call for a referendum this year, because under the country's constitutional laws, should Maduro lose the plebiscite next year, his vice president would be allowed to take over. The opposition wouldn't have another shot at power until 2019.

Their impatience is understandable; socialists have been in power in Venezuela for the last 17 years.  

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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