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Facing a crumbling economy and a resurgent opposition, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is in the fight of his political life. On May 2, the opposition coalition led by Enrique Capriles, handed in a petition with 1.85 million signatures demanding a recall election. Maduro’s supporters in the judiciary and regulatory agencies are currently trying to kill the measure, but the president’s unpopularity—the country is facing 700 percent inflation and major food shortages—gives him plenty of reason to fear a vote. Ironically, for the many unpopular leaders who have preceded Maduro, a recall is not always bad news. In fact, a revote rarely does what it sets out to do—depose an incumbent leader—and in some cases can even reinvigorate the regime in question.
Recalls—compared with the lengthy legal process of an impeachment—have become a popular shortcut across the world for removing unpopular or incompetent leaders in