Monday, December 03, 2007

Oil Vs Democracy

They voted today in Russia and Venezuela. In Russia it is clear that United Russia is crushing the opposition at the ballot boxes. Everyone knew this would happen. This makes it all the more alarming that Putin had opposition rallies broken up and opposition politicians temporarily arrested during the campaign. Clearly he is opposed to Democracy in principle and not just cheating, because otherwise his party might lose. No surprise given his background. No one can stop him partly because he is popular largely because the price of oil is high.

Over in Venezuela they voted on a referendum on a new constitution which will, among other things, eliminate Presidential term limits and give President Chavez control over local government and the central bank. No one knows how it will turn out and there are dueling exit polls. Chavez is likely to win because he is popular partly because of the high price of oil.

Is it possible for Democracy to survive in an oil exporting country ? The oil makes rents to be gained from holding power huge. Sometimes it makes the economy go so well that the person in charge can accept dictatorial authority from a grateful people.

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