Despots 2, People 1


This was intended to be topical but I am weeks behind. Let me take you to the not too distant past in my Way Back Machine.

Putin, Musharraf, Chavez. Three despots , two of whom were democratically elected, all manuvering to become Ruler for Life. Two are well on their way. One hit a wall.

Let’s start with Putin. He is in the last months of being the Russian President. Russia’s constitution limits the number of consecutive terms. What are the choices. Retire or change the constitution are the two that most quickly come to my mind. But that is the reason, or at least one reason, why I am not ruler of a major country.

Instead, why not take plan to the prime minister job, one not as powerful in Russia as President but that can be manipulated. Then throw your considerable political muscle behind someone you have mentored his entire governmental career for the president role. Not that you suspect that you can control him. Of course not. Then after one four year term by his hand picked lackey Putin is eligible to run for president again. Brilliant.

What does all this political maneuvering get you? First,  an article in the December 13 issue of The Economist subtitled:

“Vladimir Putin’s bid to remain in power is bad for Russia, for democracy and for the world”

(Yes that is the entire world being referred to. A really big place.)

Oh, btw it also gets you Time magazine’s Person of the Year award. At least they had the sense to subtitle the article “A Tsar is Born”.

Or you can take Musharraf’s approach. Take control in a military coup. Get on the good side, and substantial funding side, of the world’s most powerful country by becoming an indispensable piece of the War on Terror, from time to time use a little military force and police action to put down opponents, practice (and fail once) at removing the head of the supreme court who is one of the few people willing to stand in the way of absolute power, rig an election to make sure you win and then just before you might be booted out by the courts you declare martial law in order to save democracy. I believe that he found this recipe in the Rachel Ray’s new cookbook 30 Minute Democracies under the dictator for life section between lite appetizers and desserts.

I take very little comfort in how he has given up leadership of the military or supposedly restored the constitution. He has already stacked the Supreme Court with people who have sworn loyalty and made changes to the constitution which among other things hold that nothing that happened during martial law can be declared illegal. Key members of the opposition are still under house arrest and I do not have great faith that the upcoming elections will be truly free and without manipulation.

Then there is poor Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected, socialist president of Venezuela. he has been riding high. Locally popular, his country’s economy and status raising with oil prices. He seems invincible. But no. First, the King of Spain tells him to “shut up” and the bit of video on this becomes a YouTube hit. Then he tries to take the more conventional route to ruler for life by holding an election to change the constitution in ways that would give him more power and no term limits. Amazingly he loses. How did that happen? Simple. He was so confident in victory that he forgot to rig the elections.

Here is what amazes my very jaded view of much of the world. It seems that in many countries there either exists an absolute ruler or the ones that come to power find ways to stick around for as long as they like. Therefore Chavez’s loss provides incredible hope.

Now look at the U.S. for the last eight years. Perhaps some rights have been stepped on. The Bush administration has certainly pushed the limits of executive power and privilege to move the President’s agenda ahead.  And yet, even with 2 Supreme court appointments no one is going for the Ruler for Life title. I admit I had expected another Bush would have made it to the presidential campaigns but I was wrong.

It is hard to tell whether or not the mere fact that our term limits work are a large or small victory. I would still rather be here than Russia.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

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