So how’s George Bush’s campaign for to spread his version of “democracy” going?
The results are in from the American president’s favorite former superpower, the Russian Federation, and from his least favorite hemispheric neighbor, Venezuela.
Russian has been a special project of the Bush presidency.
Since claiming his chair in the Oval Office — with an assist from a 5-4 Republican majority on the Supreme Court — Bush has done his best to maintain friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
Famously, Bush declared after meeting with Putin in June of 2001 that, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”
Bush has worked hard to encourage Putin to respect the popular will and the American president has guarded against isolating the man in Moscow, even going so far as to front the drive to secure Russia a place in the World Trade Organization.
Venezuela, on the other hand, has always been written off as a lost case.
President Hugo Chavez’s efforts to redistribute the country’s oil wealth to aid the poor never sat well with our oil-man president, who administration quietly encouraged an attempted military coup against the elected leader.
Every effort has been made to isolate Venezuela, and to diminish and demonize its president as a dictator.
So the stage was set for the weekend’s voting in Russia and Venezuela.
What a remarkable juxtaposition the elections in these two country’s would provide!
And so they did.
In an election so managed and manipulated that key opposition parties were tossed off the ballot and critics of Putin were jailed, the Russian president has completely consolidating power in himself. The United Russia Party ticket he headed has claimed total control of the national government in voting that opposition campaigner and former world chess champ Garry Kasparov dismisses as “the dirtiest” in Russian history.
“There can be no doubt that, measured by our standards, these were not free and fair elections, they were not democratic elections,” says German government spokesman Thomas Steg. “Russia was no democracy and it is no democracy.”
And what of Venezuela?
In voting that saw a massive turnout but few serious complaints about irregularities, voters in the South American country rejected Chavez’s request for constitutional changes that would have increased his authority and allowed him to serve as president for so long as he continued to win elections. In effect, the voters chose to maintain term limits on a popular leader who was seen as having overreached.
Accepting the results, Chavez held up a copy of the constitution he had attempted to alter and declared, “We will continue constructing socialism but under this constitution.”
Thus, in the country where Bush worked with Putin to advance some kind of democracy, there is no democracy.
And in the country where Bush did everything he could to undermine the elected and popular leader, democracy appears to have prevailed.