TODAY VENEZUELA – Venezuela’s opposition have organized a nationwide referendum on Sunday, July 16, which is being held outside of the official electoral system, to reject the Constitutional Assembly being pushed forward by President Nicolas Maduro, who is looking to rewrite the Constitution promoted by Hugo Chavez.
The so-called “plebiscite” is a civic, voluntary initiative, conceived as a sign of disobedience, which intends to show the people’s rejection of the Constitutional Assembly which will be elected on July 30th.
The plebiscite will be held amidst the wave of anti-government protests that have been going on for over 100 days and have left 94 people dead. The following are the five key objectives of the vote:
How will people vote and where?
Voting will be manual, with ballot papers and books which will collect voters’ signatures. Those who take part will receive a card at the end, confirming their vote. Over 2,900 “sovereign” spots will be made available across the country as well as 14,000 centers where people aged 18 years and over can vote.
There will also be voting centers in over 500 cities abroad. It won’t be regulated by the official voter registration rolls, which is more than 19 million, so citizens will be able to vote at any of these centers. The plebiscite will have a group of university deans to ensure its transparency.
What will be voted?
The Venezuelan people will answer “yes” or “no” to three questions which were approved by the National Assembly (Congress), which is controlled by an opposition majority. These questions are:
- Do you reject or not recognize the creation of a Constitutional Assembly, which has been put forward by President Nicolas Maduro without seeking the approval of the Venezuelan people?
- Do you demand the Armed Forces and every public official obey and defend the 1999 Constitution and back the National Assembly?
- Do you approve of the replacing of public authorities according to that established in the Constitution and the holding free and transparent elections, as well as creating a national unity Government to restore constitutional order?
Where can people vote?
The opposition has placed the “sovereign spots” in churches, cultural and business centers. Voting will be open from 7 AM until 4 PM (local time).
Previous polls show that at least 8 million voters will participate in the process.
Does it have any legal grounding?
The Government has already labeled the plebiscite “unconstitional” and therefore has rejected it as a binding process, due to the fact that it is being organized outside of the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is the institution responsible for all national elections. The opposition has accused the CNE of acting biasly in favor of the Government. The organizers of the plebiscite maintain that the referendum is backed by several articles in the Constitution and therefore its results are binding for the Government.
They mainly cite article 333: The Constitution “shall not cease to be in effect if it ceases to be observed due to acts of force or because of repeal in any manner other than as provided for herein. In such eventuality, every citizen, whether or not vested with official authority, has a duty to assist in bringing it back into actual effect.”
What happens afterwards?
Some people think that a “zero hour” could be summoned after the plebiscite, which would mean a national strike but there has yet to be any formal announcement made about this. The National Assembly will debate the matter in a session on Tuesday July 18th, when lawmakers will consider the following actions. Then, they will have to make the results of the plebiscite hold weight in front of a Supreme Court of Justice, which has overturned every law and resolution form the opposition led legislative power.