Russian voters gave a huge “DA!” to Putin in legislative elections that were a de-facto referendum on extending Putin’s “national leader” status beyond the scheduled expiration of his presidential tenure next spring.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan voters narrowly gave a “NO!” to the referendum by ChÃ¡vez to extend his own tenure, as well as his powers and the role of the state in the economy.
I am unsurprised by the Russian result. Some months ago I said Putin’s party would win two thirds to three fourths of the seats, despite polls at the time that said 47% of the vote. It would appear that United Russia will have right around 70% of the seats. Stay tuned as to whether this is a step towards having the power to amend the constitution and abolish the term limit, or whether he will find other ways to exercise the dominance that he will claim a mandate for.
I am surprised by the Venezuela result. Pleasantly so. A 51-49 YES would have been a terrible outcome. A 51-49 NO could be salutary.
A couple of paragraphs from this morning’s LA Times well sum up what Venezuela’s voters turned down:
Chavez’s goal is authoritarian in nature, said Agustin Blanco Munoz, a researcher at Central University of Venezuela who wrote a biography based partially on jailhouse interviews he conducted after Chavez was imprisoned for leading the unsuccessful 1992 coup attempt.
“His model isn’t communism or socialism. It’s a varnish, a cover for a personalist system that exalts Chavez above all else as the caudillo, the new messiah, not the collective society,” Blanco Munoz said.
On the Russian vote, it is interesting that the other parties on the ballot listed the top three candidates on their national lists, whereas United Russia listed only Putin. The Times reported that many voters appeared unaware that it was a legislative election. Clearly, that was Putin’s intent, by abolishing the nominal tier of the former electoral system, and by creating the mass movement demanding him to stay on. Putin continues to deny he intends a third term. Will he be convinced otherwise, by the great democratic outpouring? ((Please be sure your irony detector is appropriately calibrated.))
Turnout was only around 55% in Venezuela, meaning only around 28% actually voted no. But good enough, for now, anyway. Russia’s turnout was around 60%, so only about 38% of the eligible electorate has endorsed this overwhelming majority. But good enough.