Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Insult of Abstention

Venezuela is becoming yet another example of how popular voting alone, without the restraints of a republic structure, can bring a autocrat to power who then destroys the democratic system. Hugo Chavez is a few weeks away from a constitutional rewrite that will allow him to rule for life. The Washington Post uses the coup word.

Mr. Chavez's Coup: In fact, Mr. Chavez's rewrite would complete his transformation into an autocrat. It would lengthen his presidential term from six to seven years and remove the current limit of two terms, allowing him to serve indefinitely. He would have broad powers to seize property, to dispose of Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves, to impose central government rule on local jurisdictions and to declare indefinite states of emergency under which due process and freedom of information would be suspended.

The Chavistas are activated and out in force to make sure the vote returns the results the boss wants. Chavez continues to justify his consolidation of power in the rhetoric of social justice. Psychologically, he needs massive public validation and it shows in his desire to let children vote for him. It is manifest in his fear that the public may refuse to participate his final assault on the traditions of his country.

Momentum Builds in Support of Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform: Addressing the crowd, Chavez said that the key objective of the reform, "is to give more power to the people." He pointed to a proposed change to Article 64, which would lower the voting age from 18 to 16, saying "This proposal will open participation to more than two million people; two million youths of 16 years of age will have the ability to vote."

Chavez also reiterated his call to all Venezuelans to participate in the referendum in order to defeat abstention. "We must work very hard in the socialist battalions, the commands of the campaign, the militants in the revolutionary parties, the students, the campesinos, the workers, the women, the indigenous all of us must work to reduce abstention," he said.

The insult of abstention is glaring tell. Like the elections in so many tyrannies, there is a need for near unanimous public affirmation. As detailed in The Systematic Annihilation of the Right to Vote in Venezuela, there are questions about the legitimacy of past elections. If large numbers of citizens simply refuse to vote because they believe the game is rigged, it is likely to infuriate an ego maniac like Chavez who believes he is the savior of his country.