The government of Venezuela has accused the opposition coalition of a massive fraud and has asked electoral authorities on 26 July, Tuesday, to ban them. The opposition is pursuing a recall vote to oust Nicolas Maduro from the presidency.
Maduro's camp struck back on the same day that the opposition was hoping for a nod to go ahead with the recall referendum.
Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro's aide to oversee the recall process, said on Tuesday "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," adding that signatures of almost 11,000 dead people and 3,000 underage children were included in a petition submitted in May with more than 1.8 million signatures calling for a recall referendum.
The opposition denied the allegations and requested their supporters to march to the election council's Caracas headquarters on 27 July to mount demands on the council to validate the first round of signatures. The last day for the National Electoral Council (CNE) to decide if the opposition was successful in collecting at least 200,000 signatures, the first phase of the long recall process, was 26 July.
The electoral council said in a statement it would assess the validity of signatures only on 1 August, Monday and stated that it will not act under pressure. "The electoral authority will not accept pressure. It is acting in strict compliance with the law," the CNE said in a statement.
At a public event, opposition leader Henry Capriles, said: "We are in an emergency. All the prices are rising and the government does nothing ... To change this situation, there has to be political change."
The government says there is not enough time to arrange a referendum this year as the opposition waited too long to start the campaign. If a referendum vote is held and the result goes against Maduro, then fresh elections will be announced. If he loses the vote after January, it means he will be replaced effectively by his vice president and supporter, Aristobulo Isturiz.
The oil rich country has been driven to a near economic collapse after a decline in oil prices and has been suffering acute shortages of food, medicine and other essential supplies.