03 December 2007

The democracy frontier

One wonders if this will temper some of the "OMG Teh Commie Dictator!" hysteria regarding Chavez in the American press. I somehow doubt it. Although the right "won" the referendum by a very slim margin, they needed a lot of help from Chavez supporters abstaining or voting no due to the more controversial aspects of the reforms that would have centralized power to the executive. I expect, however, that it will be spun as a more sweeping rebuke of the Chavez program than what it actually represents.

Around the Web: Ken Silverstein at Harper's

I’m glad Chavez lost the referendum, but Venezuela during his tenure has never resembled the totalitarian dungeon that is portrayed in American op-ed pages. And it’s a world apart from the real dictatorships run by America’s closest allies around the globe, and of which pundits like Cohen and Diehl are far more indulgent

The Sideshow:

I think Chavez' suggested changes were a bad idea, and I'm unsurprised that the people were not enthusiastic about them. But you can hardly argue that Chavez is a dictator because he asked the people if they'd let him make those changes, while at the same time pretending that Bush is not a dictator when he simply ignores the laws that the people don't want him to change. And the people have spoken.

Venezuela is looking a lot more like a democracy than some other countries I could name....

Lenin's Tomb:

Independent polls suggested beforehand that among likely voters, Chavez would probably win it, and furthermore that Chavez's call for socialism to be made part of the constitution was broadly supported. Leaving aside the probably limited effect of 'Operation Pliers', the reality is probably that Chavez's supporters were simply unwilling to turn out to vote for a constitution among whose main priorities was to enhance executive power. This was always the most problematic aspect of Chavez's reforms. Unfortunately, this result will probably strengthen the rightist opposition, despite the continuing popularity of Chavez and his other reforms.
I think this is a win-win situation all-around. Chavez's more autocratic tendencies were defeated, and he wins a propaganda victory by coyly subverting his image in the Western media as a power-hungry dictator at the same time. From his own reaction, you'd almost believe Chavez planned it that way...