Monday, December 03, 2007

Democracy Wins Vote By a Thread

Well I'll be. Venezuelan voters have rejected a proposal promoted by President Hugo Chavez that would have drastically increased his presidential powers, as well as moving the state towards full-blown socialism. This, in case anybody had a doubt, would have been a bad thing.

I'm surprised, primarily because I didn't think Chavez was interested in a fair vote. But I stand corrected -- his package of amendments lost 51-49%, and he has pledged to abide by the results.


Kevin said...

For someone who is usually so aware of media biases and things such as that, it's sad to see that you have taken the typical American approach to Chavez's referendum package.

Yes, the proposals would have increased the presidential powers. Not his powers, the presidential powers. Big difference. Even if president's had no term limits, they could still be voted out of office. While I am not a big fan of this proposal, I was willing to let it go in favor of things like:

Universal Healthcare
Free education through University
Social security for informal workers
And a host of other amendments that would drastically improve the lives of the general citizens

Also, a comment like "primarily because I didn't think Chavez was interested in a fair vote" shows that you don't know much about Chavez. There has never been any substantial allegations of vote tampering in any of Chavez's elections (opposition party bitching notwithstanding), and every single one of Chavez's comments before the referendum was about how he would stand by the results, however the people decided. It was the opposition advocating riots and rejecting the results if the referendum came back with a yes vote.

I like how you comment on many matters from world politics to the nitty gritty poli. sci. stuff, but you have a lot to learn about Venezuela.

David Schraub said...

There were certainly good things about the referendum, but that only shows why allowing issue "bundling" is so dangerous -- a nation shouldn't have to crush its democratic institutions in order to achieve universal health-care. If lack of term limits doesn't bother you, you haven't tried to unseat a sitting Congressmen lately, and if wildly increased presidential powers don't scare you, you haven't been paying enough attention to our current chief executive. Chavez's referendum would dramatically increase the power of the central government vested in the executive, including near-unlimited power to declare a state of emergency and the ability to reorganize the entire political structure of the country. That's lethal to the continuing prospect of democracy.

Contrary to what you say, Chavez's democratic record is far from stellar. His first attempt at the presidency was through an armed coup in 1992, and while his election in 1998 was probably legitimate, since then he has used the powers of the government to significantly curtail and suppress opposition electoral activity. Contrary to what you assert, there were plenty of irregularities in Chavez's previous election -- though agreeing he probably won it, the Carter Center could not validate his 2000 victory due to major transparency problems, partiality in the electoral institutions, and political pressure. In the 2002 recall, same thing -- several outside experts said there was a non-substantial chance of fraud.

Add that on to increased political repression, cozying up to oppressive, non-democratic regimes the world over, and a penchant for building a cult of personality, and I think I have every right to be skeptical of the good President.

Anonymous said...

Democracy wins by a thread?
By a huge margin, actually. Some people are so naive...
He has chosen to report 2% difference. The reality in the country tells that he actually lost big time, 20-30%.

Sebastian said...

ah I am disappointed I got to read this thread today a week after the election result.. Kevin you seem to speak about how much you know about Hugo Chavez but it seems to me you are only getting one side of the story. As a Venezuelan American who has lived the past 4 years in Venezuela I can tell you that right off the back that you turning your back on a lot of issues that are currently affecting Venezuela. I am tired of radical socialist who speak about how much they like Chavez and his authoritarian socialism, and believe that it is the best thing for Venezuela. There may be some interesting proposals in the constitutional referendum, however losing your freedom of information, your right of private property, and the right of due process, are much too high stakes in order to achieve the few possible benefits you had mention. It is very easy to comment and say these things are not important while sitting in the United States and taking freedom, life and democracy for granted. I invite you to go to Venezuela and actually see what is occurring. Understand what it means when the UN reports show that Venezuela has turned into the most violent country, or the country where the standard of living has dropped the fastest, so on and so on. Are you aware that people are arrested because they speak against the president? (Such as Capriles Radonsky) Are you aware that the people who voted against the president cannot work in many state owned companies? (Such as PDVSA) Are you aware that the government shut down a private television station just because they spoke against the president? (Radio Caracas Television) I mean I’m not sure if you’re either a hard core Cuban style socialist, ignorant, or just because Chavez is against bush you think that your enemies, enemies are your friends, either way I recommend you getting a wider variety information on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez.