Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are dealt a blow as the election board decides no recall referendum will take place before the end of the year.
Timing is crucial for the opposition. If the referendum takes place after January 10, Vice President Jorge Arreaza will take over even if Maduro loses.
If it were held before that date, the removal of Maduro would trigger a Presidential election.
While opposition to the Socialist leader remains strong, with nearly 1 million marching through Caracas at the start of September, the political system seems slanted against them.
To secure a referendum at all, the opposition must secure signatures from 20% of the population in each state.
Moreover, they will have just three days in October, between the 26 and 28, to do so.
They had hoped the vote could be triggered with support from 20% nationwide.
The opposition had called for 19,500 voting machines to be distributed around the country to collect the necessary signatures. But the election board only approved 5, 392.
Opposition leader Jesus Torrealba of the Democratic Unity coalition condemned the decision. He said “We reject the anti-constitutional elements of this announcement by the election board”.
Venezuela is suffering major economic turmoil, with huge inflation and a third year of recession.
President Maduro’s approval rating has plummeted since winning a close election victory in 2013.