CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Venezuela's National Electoral Council, or CNE, has officially delayed gubernatorial and regional elections, originally set for December, possibly by up to half a year and a whole year, respectively.
The ruling was announced by CNE President Tibisay Lucena, who said Venezuelans will be able to vote for the governors of the country's 23 states in the first half of 2017, followed by regional elections in which the mayors of Venezuela's 335 municipalities will be chosen by the end of 2017.
Lucena said political parties will hold primary elections likely in March or April.
The CNE's ruling comes after Venezuela's highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, ruled late Monday the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition must collect signatures from 20 percent of voters in each state to initiate a recall referendum -- aggravating the already difficult task of removing President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Previously, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition had to collect 3,893,128 signatures -- exactly 20 percent -- from Venezuela's voting-eligible population between Oct. 26 and Oct. 28.
The CNE, along with the TSJ, are accused of working as an extension of Maduro's socialist regime. Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, on Tuesday said neither the "unconstitutional" TSJ nor the CNE will be able to prevent the opposition's recall of Maduro.
Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, on Monday said the elections were suspended over the opposition's recall efforts.