Venezuela suspends recall vote against President Maduro

A recall vote against Maduro has been suspended, as opposition leaders say they are barred from leaving the country.

    Electoral officials in Venezuela have suspended a recall referendum campaign against President Nicolas Maduro, a move that further challenges opposition efforts to oust the socialist leader in the wake of a deepening econonomic crisis.

    Thursday's decision by the electoral council came after several regional courts voided the results of an earlier signature drive against Maduro due to fraud allegations.

    Later on Thursday, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said he and seven other opposition leaders had received court orders banning them from leaving Venezuela.

    OPINION: The 'pink tide' in crisis

    Venezuela declares financial emergency over economic crisis

    Capriles, who was the opposition's candidate in both 2012 and 2013 presidential elections against then-President Hugo Chavez and Maduro respectively, shared an image of the court order barring him from leaving the country on his official Twitter account.

    "Once again they are wasting their time. Wait for announcements in the next few hours," he said on Friday.

    The opposition blames Maduro for an economic implosion that has seen severe food shortagesa healthcare crisis, hyperinflation, violence and looting in a once-booming country that is home to the world's largest oil reserves.

    READ MORE: Lootings soar in Venezuela amid food scarcity

    Capriles previously blasted Thursday's decision to suspend the recall as unconstitutional.

    "We alert the diplomatic corps in our country that the government today is pushing toward a very dangerous scenario," Capriles said on Twitter.

    Capriles, who was barred from leaving the country, said the Electoral Authority's decision to suspend the recall was "unconstitutional"[Reuters]

    The electoral council's decision was in response to rulings by courts in four Venezuelan states that found there was fraud in the initial stage of the petition drive. During that stage the opposition had collected signatures from 1 percent of the electorate.

    "In adherence with the constitution, the National Electoral Council abides by the decisions ordered by the tribunals and has sent instructions to postpone the process of signature gathering until new judicial instructions are known," the council said in a statement.

    To trigger a stay-or-go referendum, the opposition needed to collect and validate some four million signatures from 20 percent of the electorate in 24 states over three days next week.

    The opposition needed a referendum this year because under Venezuela's constitutional rules, should Maduro lose a plebiscite next year, his vice president would take over rather than there being a new election, denying the opposition their opportunity to take power after 17 years of socialism.

    READ MORE: Venezuela- Civil servants to pay for anti-Maduro vote

    Inside Story - Has the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela failed?

    The ruling comes on the heels of another decision by the electoral council this week to suspend by about six months state elections that were slated for December, giving the government more breathing room before going to the polls

    Polls say a majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone.

    The opposition staged its largest street demonstration in years on September 1, with a rally in Caracas demanding a referendum against Maduro be held in 2016. But apart from that protest, most anti-government rallies this year have been relatively small and quick to disperse.

    On Thursday night, opposition leaders started calling for more massive street protests in the face of election authority's ruling.

    "This is the time for national unity," wrote former presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado on her Twitter account.

    "Every single person must take to the streets, with strength and without fear, to make the transition a reality."

    WATCH Life on the line: Inside Venezuela's crisis

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News And News Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.