When the tandemocracy of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev successfully pushed through a constitutional amendment to extend the presidential term from four to six years in just 50 days, the reactions were diverse. This new bill, along with the legislation to eliminate jury trials, led human rights leader Lev Ponomarev to comment that Medvedev had just officially sacrificed his legal career, and that “Finally, without any questions or suspicions, he becomes an outright shadow of Mr. Putin.” The editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta floated the theory that the Kremlin pursued this new legislation during the economic crisis because “The very possibility of a new, prolonged presidency for Putin has a disciplinary effect on the Russian elite.“
However, for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the reaction to this blisteringly fast and oddly timed alteration of the constitution seemed to be a sense of jealousy.
Yesterday Chávez, who is set to leave power in 2013 unless the constitution is changed yet again, has announced his supportfor a new constitutional referendum that would make infinitere-election without term limits possible for all political offices -from governors to mayors to legislators. ” This will signal a breakingpoint with the old democracy. Chávez commented that “At bottom, we are proposing a break with ademocratic, classic liberal, model,” indicating that he hasn’t given up on his narrowly defeated referendum of last year to make him president-for-life.
The timing is a strange coincidence given the events in Russia, no? Let’s hope these two governments don’t try to outdo each other in arace to unravel what little remains of democratic institutions.