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Venezuela's Electoral Council sets signature ratification process for May

By Miguel Octavio

National Electoral Council (CNE) Director Jorge Rodriguez announced the dates for the ratification of the signatures for the recall referenda of the opposition Deputies (from May 13th. to May 17th.) and for pro-Chavez Deputies and the President (from May 20th. to the 24th.). There will be 2,659 centers to do it in the same locations where the signatures were gathered last November.

The CNE Director abstained from saying which signatures will or not be included in the process, concentrating on the procedure to be used. Thus, the opposition will have until the date of the ratification to have the Supreme Court force the CNE to exclude the forms with the same calligraphy from the ratification process as well as including the 39,000 forms rejected outright.

Rodriguez announced that the whole process will be run and monitored by the CNE alone, but there will be one witness for each side on each polling booth. In another amazing twist of the regulations, the five days stipulated will be reduced to only three, with the first and last day being used to set up and dismount the polling booths.

I can not get too excited about this announcement. The opposition needs more than 60% of the people to show up to ratify their signatures, there will be lots of confusion about who has to go or not and ratify their signature and the time is too restricted. Moreover, I still do not understand the role of the PCs at the polling booths. It is an unnecessary expense that in my mind has the purpose of allowing the Chavez Government to monitor the process and apply further pressure on those that signed to go say they did not.

I also believe that the absence of any possibility of itinerant ratification will stop the old, the sick as well as the poor from going to ratify their signatures. Unless the Court forces the CNE to allow those 39,000 forms to be part of the ratification I can not be too positive. Having said that, I will still go tomorrow and volunteer and be trained by the Democratic Coordinator (CD) to aid people in the process of ratifying their signatures. What the CD will be doing is set up centers to give out information on whether a signature was deemed valid or not by the CNE and if it is subject to ratification or not.

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