Venezuelans line up to authenticate their signatures for a recall referendum before the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Caracas on June 20, 2016
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelans seeking to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power launched a crucial phase Monday in their drive to hold a referendum on his rule in an economic and political crisis.
Here is a quick guide to the process:
The opposition has submitted 1.3 million signatures to get electoral authorities to consider their referendum demand. That is more than six times the 200,000 needed to move to the next stage.
This week at least 200,000 of the names are meant to be authenticated by fingerprinting the signatories. After that, the opposition must gather a total four million signatures to demand a referendum be held.
In the referendum, in order to remove Maduro from office the number of votes in favor of doing so must be greater than the number he received in his 2013 election victory: some 7.5 million.
Electoral authorities have set a July 23 deadline to authenticate 200,000 of the signatures of those who are submitting their fingerprints this week.
Then the opposition has three days to gather four million more signatures. After that the electoral council is supposed to fix a date for a referendum.
The opposition is hastening to complete the recall process by January 10, the cutoff date to trigger new elections.
After that date, a successful recall vote would simply pass power to Maduro's hand-picked vice president.
Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano estimated the referendum would have to take place by early November to have a chance of succeeding against Maduro.
Maduro has challenged the referendum drive as unconstitutional in the Supreme Court. His opponents say he controls the court and the electoral authorities through his allies.
Maduro has warned he could take emergency measures if recent deadly looting and protests escalate. Such measures could prevent the recall referendum from taking place.
Time is also on Maduro's side. The opposition complains his influence over the electoral council can help him drag out the process so a vote does not happen this year.