Putin and Chavez, comrades of sorts, one a winner, the other a loser.
Not surprisingly, there have been widespread allegations of voter fraud, intimidation and coercion in the Russian elections. Elections which will effectively allow ex-KGB Vladimir (old habits die hard) Putin to remain as "national leader" even after his term limit as President ends next spring. Gary Gasparov, former chess champion and opposition leader, claimed the election was
“the most unfair and dirtiest in the whole history of modern Russia.”
Russia’s opposition groups and European observers criticized the vote as unfair, citing reports of pressure exerted by election authorities and workplace managers for Russians to vote for Putin’s party.
Little wonder his party won in a landslide victory. Ironically, even the Communist Party called it
“the most irresponsible and dirty” in the post-Soviet era and party officials vowed to challenge the results,
after they only won about 50 seats in the 450 seat Russian State Duma. Putin's United Russia party landed a whopping 315 seats.
On December 17 the presidential candidate is due to be named, although everyone knows whoever Congress happens to choose will merely serve as a puppet figure, with Putin handily pulling the strings. Which is why there was such a concerted effort to forcibly get out the vote, illegal or not.
Then we have Hugo (look at me) Chavez who lost, by a very slim margin, the constitutional vote which would have granted him, among other things, the power to be re-elected in perpetuity. I thought there would have been rampant voter fraud in that election, but Chavez was surprisingly level-headed and gracious when he conceded that the Venezuelan people are obviously not ready for a full blown socialist state, and that he learned from these elections that
"Venezuelan democracy is maturing."
He also called for no more violence:
"From this moment on, let's be calm," [snip] "There is no dictatorship here."
No dictatorship? Perhaps not in the near future, but we shall see what transpires over the next few years. Frankly, I don't trust him. The man is far too devious to suddenly change his way of being. I'm convinced there were ulterior motives for this concession, and that it's not some miraculous, sudden change of heart.
First and foremost, he (or his advisors) probably realized his recent, bizarre demeanour on the global front has been alienating rather endearing him to other leaders. He's been shunned and told to shut up by leaders of Spain, Colombia, Saudi Arabia. I'm sure he's aware that he needs allies other than his pal Ahmadinejad, so showing a little good sense might might curry favour amongst those who have lost their patience with his bluster and bully tactics. He shows some tolerance, a little good will - world opinion favours him once again- and he's back to being King Chavez, loved by all.
Furthermore, this sudden acceptance of defeat doesn't necessarily mean that things won't change down the line. As far as Chavez is concerned, anything could happen come 2012. And probably will.