The Venezuelan opposition party has presented boxes containing 1.8 million signature to election authorities. The signatures demand a recall that could remove socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power. AFP reports:

Venezuelans fed up with food shortages, soaring inflation and now a paralyzing electricity crunch have flocked to sign a petition for a recall referendum, according to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

It said it had presented 1.85 million signatures — more than nine times the number needed to launch the referendum process — to the National Electoral Board.

MUD executive secretary Jesus Torrealba said 80 boxes packed with referendum petitions had been delivered to the board.

Torrealba retweeted this image of the boxes full of signatures.

BBC reports there are three steps to hold a successful recall election:

  • 1% of voters on the electoral roll have to sign a petition within 30 days to kick-start the process
  • 20% of voters (almost four million) have to sign a second petition in order to trigger the referendum
  • For the referendum to be successful, an equal or greater number of voters than those who elected Mr Maduro would have to cast their vote in favour of the recall. Mr Maduro won the 2013 election with 7,587,579 votes

So the 1.85 million votes were merely to pass the 1% threshold so that the opposition can then attempt to get the four million signatures needed to make the referendum a reality. However, Maduro and his allies are already playing games.

The opposition wants to get the referendum ready for a vote by December. If they are able to do so and get the nearly 8 million votes needed to recall Maduro, new elections would be held. However, if the referendum doesn’t make it to a vote before January of 2017 then, under Venezuelan law, Maduro’s Vice President would automatically take over for the remainder of his term. So the opposition wants to get this moving and Maduro, assuming he can’t stop it entirely, wants to slow it down so his party stays in power. AFP reports the wrangling has already begun:

The constitution gives the authorities five days to count the signatures collected by the opposition and five days to verify them.

But electoral board official Tania D’Amelio suggested Sunday that process would begin only once the full 30 days allotted for circulating the petition had lapsed — in late May.

The opposition accused her of bias in favor of Maduro.

It said there is no need to wait because it had already gathered more than the required 200,000 signatures “in record time.”

The opposition raised the nearly 2 million signatures (10% of all voters) in one week. President Maduro is very unpopular thanks to record crime, skyrocketing inflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine which have been getting worse for over a year.