The Venezuelan government asked electoral authorities to declare illegal the opposition coalition seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro via a recall vote, accusing them of committing massive fraud.
“We have just asked for the cancellation of the registration of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, for being involved in the worst vote fraud in the country’s history,” said Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro’s designated aide to monitor the recall vote process.
Tuesday is the final day for the National Electoral Council (CNE) to rule on the validity of an initial batch of 200,000 signatures needed to move on to the next stage of the long and winding recall process.
Rodriguez accused the opposition of using the names of thousands of dead people, convicts and minors in its petition.
“Now the CNE will have to have their legal office gather all the facts, which they themselves are aware of,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.
“Then the CNE’s directors will consider our request.”
Maduro’s allies had already filed a series of court cases alleging fraud in the recall drive.
The opposition denies the charge, accusing the government of stalling.
Maduro’s opponents are racing to complete the lengthy procedures to force a recall vote by January 10, the cutoff to trigger new elections.
After that date — four years into the president’s six-year term — a successful recall vote would simply transfer power to Maduro’s hand-picked vice president.
Venezuela has spiraled into crisis as global prices for its main export, oil, have collapsed.
The economy is set to contract eight percent this year, its third year of recession, a UN panel forecast Tuesday.
Food shortages, hyperinflation and mounting chaos are fueling growing discontent with Maduro.
A recent poll found 64 percent of Venezuelans would vote to remove him in a referendum.