Caracas: A day after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro`s opponents staged a mass demonstration calling for a referendum on removing him from office, their victory still looked far from certain on Friday.
Here is how Venezuelan analysts and key players see the next few weeks developing as the opposition presses for a referendum before the crucial turning point of January 10.The head of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Jesus Torrealba, told AFP that around a million people joined in Thursday`s march.
The coalition vowed to take to the streets again on September 7 and 14.
"The toughest challenge for the opposition is converting their potential energy into kinetic energy. This protest march has not changed who is in charge of the institutions," said Luis Vicente Leon, head of polling firm Datanalisis.
"Once they are in the street, a winning strategy for the opposition would be to stay there, to show that they are in the majority and remind people what the majority wants and that they will not be quiet until they get it."Maduro has vowed to resist, branding the opposition "fascist right-wing" stooges of US "imperialism."
He staged his own rally in defiance of the opposition`s gathering on Thursday. He threatened to strip opposition lawmakers of their immunity to go after them in the courts.
His Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said she had proof that opposition protesters had plotted violence.
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said security forces had detained various opposition leaders over recent days and had "frustrated a coup d`etat and defeated violence."
The government had already launched court appeals against the MUD, accusing its members of electoral fraud in the referendum petitions.
Maduro wrote off Thursday`s opposition demo, claiming: "The victory is ours."The opposition wants to hold the referendum by January 10.
If it takes place before that date and Maduro loses, new elections must be held. If he loses in a recall after that date, he would simply hand power to his hand-picked vice president.
But the National Electoral Board has scheduled the next stage of the process for late October, putting a January 10 referendum virtually out of reach.
The opposition says the electoral authorities are controlled by Maduro.
For the next stage in the referendum process, the opposition needs to gather four million signatures to back its call for a plebiscite.
The electoral board says it will announce on September 13 the exact date when it will let the opposition gather those signatures.
The opposition has vowed to rally the next day.
On its own, "that march will not make the board change its schedule," said Eugenio Martinez, an electoral analyst.
"If the opposition settles for one demonstration it loses. That is why they have announced more protests that will grow in intensity," he added.
"All these protests added together could succeed in pushing the electoral authorities to speed up the process."