Monday, December 03, 2007

Win Some Lose Some

The Washington Post reports on Oil and Democracy

href="">Voters Deny Chávez Additional Authority

CARACAS, Venezuela, Dec. 3 -- Venezuelan voters delivered a stinging defeat to President Hugo Chávez on Sunday, blocking proposed constitutional changes that would have given him political supremacy and accelerated the transformation of this oil-rich country into a socialist state.

Hours after the final ballots were cast, the National Electoral Council announced at 1:15 a.m. local time Monday that voters, by a margin of 51 to 49 percent, had rejected 69 reforms to the 1999 constitution. The modifications would have permitted the president to stand for reelection indefinitely, appoint governors to provinces he would create and control Venezuela's sizable foreign reserves.

Chávez immediately went on national television and conceded before a roomful of government allies and other supporters. "I thank you and I congratulate you," Chávez said calmly, directing his comments to his foes. "I recognize the decision a people have made."

Putin Win Central to Ambitions

Russian president secures a convincing victory in parliamentary election and, allies say, "moral authority" to influence state after he steps down.

Frankly, I consider the end of Russian democracy a done deal.

However, I did almost forecast that Chavez would declare himself to have won the referendum. In any case, I did guess that Venezuelan (and Mexican, Indonesian and Nigerian) democracy are doomed.

I should have mentioned the key role of term limits in each case. I think the principle that no one should be President for more than x years is one of the many things we owe to Jefferson (Washington retired too but he was real real old).. Putin feels the need to smash heads not just from habit but because the fact that he won't technically be President forever makes it not totally clear that he will run Russia indefinetly.

Now as to Venezuela, I am impressed by the voters who did not vote for a 6 hour day and a permanent President. I am also impressed by Chavez's reaction. This is the first election he hasn't won, so there was no way to know how he would react. I am especially impressed by the integrity of an electoral system in which the President who is regularly accused of being a dictator (I even read tyrant recently) can lose by 51% to 49%.

Given my last post, I can't put this strictly in the third person, but they (we) who considered Chavez a dictator, because he is a loud mouth have some explaining to do.

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