Monday, December 03, 2007

Tovarich 1 - 0 Amigo

Vladimir Putin secured a landslide victory in yesterday’s Russian election. His United Russia party won 306 seats (64.1%) out of 450 in the Duma or the lower house of parliament. The Communists would have 57 seats, or 11.6% of the vote. The Liberal Democratic party (nationalists) won the 8.2% of the vote and the populist Just Russia, 7.6% - the threshold of 7% has left many critic voices out in the political cold. And, as you know, Russia is extremely cold, in all the senses.

The turnout was about 62%, up from 56% in the last parliamentary elections four years ago.

According to Russian constitution, Putin has to stand down after two terms as head of state (like in United States) - but now, with this spectacular victory he wants to become a “national leader”. What does this mean? No-one knows.

From the Siberian tundra to lake Maracaibo.

Hugo Chavez lost very narrowly his try to make substantial changes to the Venezuelan Constitution. So he will stand down in 2013 once his term expires. The opposition won the 51% of the vote and the Government position, the 49% - I call this a Quebec-style result… Chavez called it a “photo phinish” with a “microscopic” difference – but, hey, that’s democracy, pure maths, at the end of the day.

It seems that the apathy and some disillusion of “softer” chavistas is partly to blame for the unexpected result (remember this is the military man- changed in politician who has won 10 elections in 8 years, almost all of them by landslide). The turnout of 55%, low by Venezuelan standards, showed that many stayed home.

“Abstention defeated us” said Chavez, “it’s a lesson for us”.

“He has woken us up, the poor”, says Oscar Olachea, a member of an agricultural co-op.

So here we have, a victory and a defeat. But, paradoxically, Putin looks more like a dictator after his rigged farse and Chavez looks since yesterday more a democratically elected leader who recognizes electoral defeat and less the strong man than some western media tries to suggest he is.

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