Monday, December 03, 2007

Comparing Venezuela and Russia

My colleague Justine Rosenthal has raised an interesting point--what does the victory of United Russia in the Russian elections and the defeat of the constitutional amendments in Venezuela say about the limits of voters to give more and more executive power to their respective national leaders?

In Russia, I think that what people have endorsed is a general course of leadership without being too concerned about questions of structure. It is a vote for a continuation of Putinism--but don't bother us with details.

In Venezuela, in contrast, it is clear that a segment of the "Chavista" electorate did not follow his recommendations to vote for the constitutional package. As in Russia, there does appear to be a gap between the personal popularity of the president and his electoral coattails. I think a number of people who sympathize with the "Bolivarian agenda" of Hugo Chavez nonetheless still want some checks and balances on executive power to stay in place.

Further to your point on Venezuela--this vote was Venezuelans not wanting to give Chavez more power, not that the majority disagree with his policies. This was a defeat for Chavez, not a victory for the opposition--so Americans shouldn't read into this that Chavez is now vulnerable.
Tony Karon is comparing Putin to Reagan.
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