Jorge Rodriguez, a Venezuelan government official, shows a copy of the form to activate the vote with invalidated signatures at the Supreme Court of Justice in the capital, Caracas, June 13, 2016. ©AFP
The Venezuelan government has asked the country's electoral authorities to block the opposition’s bid to hold a recall referendum, accusing them of massive 'fraud.'
Venezuela’s right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), is racing to call a referendum by the end of the year. It submitted a petition with 1.8 million signatures on May 2, to electoral officials to fulfill the legal requirements for a recall referendum against  President Nicolas Maduro.
Jorge Rodriguez, an aide to Maduro, said Wednesday that thousands of signatures gathered for the recall vote are for the dead, convicts, and minors, making the petition invalid.
“We have just asked for the cancellation of the registration of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), for being involved in the worst vote fraud in the country's history,” Rodriguez said.
The opposition has denied the charges, saying the government is delaying the process.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) was due Tuesday to declare if the opposition has managed to gather a minimum 200,000 signatures for the recall vote, the first stage of the long and winding recall procedures.
The council has not announced the result yet.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a rally outside Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on June 22, 2016. ©AFP
For the recall referendum to be successful, the opposition needs to collect 7.6 million signatures in support of Maduro’s ouster.
The opposition is trying to hold a referendum before January 10, four years into the president’s six-year term.  In the event of a successful recall vote, the power would be passed to Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz.
Earlier in May, Isturiz ruled out the possibility of a recall vote, saying, Maduro will not be ousted “because there will be no referendum.”
Since 2014, Venezuela has been grappling with protests against Maduro who is under fire by his critics, most notably the opposition, for causing the economic recession through mismanagement.
The government of Maduro, however, has denounced the opposition’s plans as a US-backed attempt to bring about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country that is home to 29 million people.