CARACAS, Venezuela, July 27 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro‘s administration on Tuesday petitioned the national election commission to ban the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition, saying it committed fraud in its recall referendum efforts.
Jorge Rodríguez, a member of Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, mayor of Caracas and head of a signature-verification commission established by Maduro’s government during the opposition’s presidential recall efforts, filed a petition with the National Electoral Council, asking the council to cancel the political registration of the opposition coalition, known as the MUD.
Earlier this year, the opposition submitted more than 1.8 million signatures to the council, known as the CNE as part of a petition process seeking to activate a recall referendum. Just 200,000 signatures were needed.
After completing the first phase of the petition process, the opposition is waiting for the CNE to provide the necessary documents to move ahead with the final phase. The MUD will need to collect signatures from 20 percent, or about 4 million, of Venezuela’s voting-eligible population within three days.
Reaching that final phase has proved difficult. 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.
The MUD have accused the CNE of attempting to hinder the opposition’s efforts to recall Maduro. The opposition has held massive nationwide protests over the cause.
The petition to ban the MUD is based on accusations of fraud related to more than 300,000 petition signatures, Rodríguez said.
“It is public, it is known, it is communicated and it is fully demonstrated that the … MUD incurred the most gigantic fraud which has been known in the political and electoral history of Venezuela,” Rodriguez said Tuesday outside of the CNE’s headquarters, adding that “307,747 signatures did not meet one or more technical criteria; and 53,658 of those are very serious irregularities; for example 10,995 people dead, 9,333 identification numbers that are nonexistent, 1,335 politically disqualified for being convicted of felonies and 3,003 under the age of 18.”
Maduro’s approval ratings are usually below 20 percent — at times dipping into single digits — meaning the likelihood of his removal is high if a recall referendum is held.
“The CNE must, is obliged, at the request of the Ministry of Interior or a political party, to attend immediately and expeditiously the cancellation of the registration of the MUD,” Rodríguez added.