MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. Political opponents of Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro have held the so-called people’s referendum where 7.18 million people cast their votes, a commission of principals from the country’s leading universities said on Monday after 95% of protocols were counted.
The executive power has already signaled that it is not going to recognize the plebiscite results.
Venezuelans aged above 18 were asked to answer three questions: 1) if they reject and ignore convening the Constituent Assembly proposed by Maduro without the prior approval of the Venezuelan people; 2) if they demand that the National Armed Forces and all public officials obey and defend the 1999 Constitution and support the decisions of the National Assembly; 3) and if the approve the renewal of public powers in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, and the execution of free and transparent elections, as well as the formation of a national unity government.
Some 98.4% of Venezuelans voted against convening the Constituent Assembly, and more than 98% answered "yes" to the second and third questions. The Venezuelan opposition views the referendum’s results as an unequivocal victory over the executive power.
"When Nicolas Maduro allegedly won the elections (in 2013) and we know he did not win them, and fewer people than today (Sunday) voted. This means that by today’s vote the Venezuelan people said in mathematical terms that Maduro has been dismissed," said President of the National Assembly (parliament) Julio Borges.
According to official data, some 7.58 million people voted in favor of Maduro, the successor of late President Hugo Chavez, in 2013, but the opposition did not recognize the outcome.
The parliament’s speaker also said at noon on Monday (4 p.m. GMT) the opposition plans to hold a meeting to reveal its further plans. He hoped that the executive branch would pay attention to the referendum’s results and cancel the elections to the Constituent Assembly set for July 30. This body may reform the system of state administration and amend Venezuela’s key law.
So far, the government’s statements show that the executive office is not going to recognize the referendum’s results. President of the National Electoral Council Tibisay Lucena said the vote had no "judicial consequences." Maduro also said this was an "internal referendum of opposition parties" and in order to be legal the plebiscite should have been convened by the National Electoral Council.
The Venezuelan election commission held a trial run on Sunday for the elections to the Constituent Assembly. More than 550 ballot stations equipped with voting machines were opened nationwide to familiarize voters with the process. According to Maduro, a trial run was the most massive one in the country’s history, confirming that the citizens support the idea of convening the Constituent Assembly.
The president also called on the opposition to "launch a new round of dialogue for the sake of peace and independence of the motherland."
The referendum was held peacefully and just a few incidents were reported, the head of the city university Benjamin Scharifker said. However, a group of armed men attacked a ballot station in Catia, in Caracas. The Prosecutor-General’s Office is investigating the incident that killed one and wounded three others.
The commission is due to double check the protocols to rule out that the vote was rigged, Scharifker said. Later, all the documents and notes containing information about voters will be destroyed. The organizers seek to guarantee that citizens who took part in the vote won’t be subjected to persecution.
Maduro’s decision to convene the Constituent Assembly without holding a preliminary referendum led to a deterioration in the ongoing turmoil throughout the country. Since early April, Venezuela has been hit by a major series of protests against the president over the past years.
The protests flared up after a decision by the Supreme Court to extend Maduro’s powers and limit the parliament’s. More than 90 people have died and another 1,500 have been wounded in the protests, and several thousand Venezuelans have been placed behind bars.