Venezuelans showed up to polling stations around the country Monday to validate signatures for the referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. Citizens had to verify their votes using their fingerprints.
Over two million signatures appeared on the petition to request a recall referendum against the bus-driver-turned-president, but officials have already declared over 600,000 of these to be invalid. They claimed that because 11,000 of the signatures were from deceased people, the rest of the movement is also false. To move to the next step, at least 200,000 signatures must be approved by the elections council through the fingerprints collected Monday.
Last week the U.S. voiced its support for the referendum. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would help the country's poor economic and political situation.
The opposition sympathizers, who support the recall, said the validation requirement is an attempt by the Socialist Party to hamper the referendum's progress. After a severe drop in oil prices, Venezuelans were outraged by the country's failing socialist system. Long grocery lines met empty shelves, leading many to call for the president's removal.
If the petition is passed, Venezuelans would need to draft a second document with over four million signatures. The recall will commence if that document is validated.
BBC reports that the following requirements must be satisfied to initiate the recall referendum:
1% of voters on the electoral roll have to sign a petition within 30 days to kick-start the process
Signatures have to be validated
20% of voters (almost four million) have to sign a second petition in order to trigger the referendum
For the referendum to be successful, an equal or greater number of voters than those who elected Mr Maduro would have to cast their vote in favour of the recall - he won the 2013 election with 7,587,579 votes
However, if the referendum against the Maduro doesn't happen before January 10, Maduro's vice president Jorge Arreaza will take over, keeping the Socialist Party in power. Should the referendum occur before this date, a new election will be held. Polls indicate Maduro would not win reelection.