Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is facing a recall election that could potentially remove him from power in Caracas, three years after taking over from Hugo Chavez. The nation's main opposition party is calling for a referendum vote to occur this year so a favorable vote would remove Maduro and his socialist party from government rule. UPI Photo/File
CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A schedule released Tuesday by election officials in Venezuela poses a major obstacle for members of an opposition party hoping to take power in the South American nation.
The opposition Democratic Union Roundtable has been calling for a recall vote to remove Nicolas Maduro from power, based on numerous allegations and concerns, from food shortages to substantial economic worries.
But the timing is critical.
If the referendum is held after Jan. 10, Maduro's vice president, Aristóbulo Istúriz, will assume power -- leaving the United Socialist Party in charge, no matter what the recall's result is. If that happens, the first opportunity the DUR party will have to take power is when Maduro's and, by extension, Istúriz's term ends in 2019.
By then, it's debatable whether the opposition party will have enough support to win. Four million signatures are required to trigger a recall election.
According to the schedule, opposition members can begin filing the required paperwork for a recall vote beginning in October. After that, it could take officials anywhere up to four months to hold the referendum.
If the vote occurs before Jan. 10, a recall presidential election could still put the Democratic Union Roundtable in power immediately. Recent polling data has shown that opposition supporters may presently have as much as 60 percent of the vote. What that picture may look like in 2019 is far less clear.
Some opposition supporters on Tuesday said the electoral agency, headed by Tibisay Lucena, is intentionally trying to delay the vote to keep the socialists in power.
"This is an exercise in cynicism and lies from Ms. Lucena," DUR leader Henrique Capriles said. "The people want the date and recall referendum in 2016!"
Opposition supporters are planning a rally next month to pressure the election agency to hold the referendum vote before the year ends.
Petition-based referendums have been somewhat of a controversial matter in Venezuela in recent times. Officials said more than 600,000 signatures submitted on an opposition petition in May belonged to people ineligible to vote -- including deceased and fictional persons and children.
Maduro has been in power in Caracas since controversial former president Hugo Chavez died in 2013.