The Coordinadora Democrática (CD) which in theory represents the opposition announced yesterday that it will participate in the process for the ratification of the signatures requesting a recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez.
The decision was not an easy one. In fact, most of the major political parties actually disagreed with it, thinking that it was a matter of principle and there had been too may tricks on the part of the Government and the CNE to give any credibility to the process. In the end it appeared as if the opinion of Súmate and the fact that a large majority of those that participated in the process wanted to continue, helped the CD make its own decision. Súmate is NGO that has participated in the opposition signature gathering processes helping organize and evaluate them.
Most major political parties were absent from the press conference in which Miranda Governor Enrique Mendoza announced the decision to go forward. While some parties had expressed that they will cooperate if the decision was to participate, the absence of Proyecto Venezuela, COPEI, Primero Justicia and Causa R at the podium of the event could not be missed. Primero Justicia said that while it disagreed with the decision it will help the process.
Sumate said the goal of obtaining the required signatures was feasible as long as certain conditions were met. Chief among them was the fact that the process had to be efficient in order to handle the lines of people that may show up. This appears to be the main concern at this time.
In the end, 1.91 million signatures were deemed valid by the CNE, 1.19 need to be ratified and 375 thousand were simply discarded. In the end 45% of the signatures were set aside and 11% were invalid.
Sumate was highly critical of the CNE. It said that when comparing databases 27% of the signatures changed status from the second to the third database, without any additional verification taking place during that time. Even more remarkable were the many anecdotes circulating, including the fact that the signature of one of the main negotiators for the opposition with the CNE simply disappeared as well as a number of major opposition leaders whose signatures were set aside and will have to be ratified. The CNE later said these charges were false.
The CD will now hold a number of activities from now until the day when the process will take place. There will be activities during the first week to help people identify the location of the 2700 centers where people will be able to go to ratify their signatures. On May 8th. there will be a drive to have people go to each of the polling station and find out whether their signatures as valid, invalid or need to be ratified. The week before the process the CD will attempt to contact everyone that has expressed their desire to ratify their signature in order to guarantee the largest possible turnout.
Some people think it will be impossible to get the required number of people to go. While it is true that people are tired of the whole process, it should be pointed out that abstention should not be high for this part of the process; after all, those that signed in November will be motivated to have their signature validated.
The question at this time is whether there will be additional tricks on the way. One such stealth trick took place on Tuesday this week when the President of the Supreme Court named a pro-Chavez Justice of the Court to write opinions on the conflicts between the different Halls. This is just manipulation to gain time. If and when the majority of the full Court is against it, a new justice who is part of the majority will then need to be appointed to write the opinion. This essentially blocks the possibility of a full Court decision by at least one month.