Venezuelans: ‘No’ To Life Presidency

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[Black Star Editorial]

Venezuelans support President Hugo Chavez’s social revolution in the Bolivarian Republic. In the December 2006 elections, Chavez was re-elected, winning 63% of the popular vote.

Chavez won his first term of office in 1998 with 56%, which was the largest margin of the popular vote. Chavez’s campaign pledge was to fight poverty and corruption; he also promised to break up the old elitists’ oligarch’s hold on power. He involved more poor Venezuelans, including Afro-Venezuelans, in politics and provided them with social services like health clinics and education to open up their prospects for upward mobility.

Chavez largely delivered on all his promises—he was able to distribute wealth to the nation’s poor, thanks to record oil prices which brought in billions of windfall dollars to Venezuela’s treasury. Venezuelans support Chavez and admire his courage in forging an independent policy. He stood up against United States global arrogance and interventionism--that’s why he was overwhelmingly re-elected last December.

Yet Venezuelans –like most people around the world – don’t want a President for life. That’s why by a narrow vote of 50% against 49% Venezuelans yesterday voted against sweeping proposed changes that would have, among many things, abolished presidential term limits. Chavez, as things stand, would not be able to run again come 2012. He could continue to contribute to his country’s future in many different ways. To his great credit he did not try to tamper with the outcome of the vote.

There is another message in the outcome of the Chavez vote. Global communications have integrated international politics, meaning there is no longer anything such as “domestic” politics—national voting are scrutinized by world viewers due to international media. Many social liberals who supported Chavez’s social revolution do not back his concentration of power.

Similarly, in Pakistan, the global community followed President Pervez Musharraf’s attempts to concentrate power –holding both the office of President while continuing as commander in chief. He was turned back by popular protests which was beamed all over the world, as was the build up to Venezuela’s vote on the Chavez’s proposals. Musharraf may not even hold on to the presidency for long.

In Kenya, elections later this month could also see the incumbent relinquishing power to the political opposition. He had vowed to not run for office again – hopefully voters will help him keep his promise not to seek another term by voting him out. In neighboring Uganda, even though the dictator who also wants life presidency recently hosted a world gathering of leaders, the so-called “commonwealth”  –which was simply a “thank you” because he slavishly sent troops to Somalia as part of the West’s misguided and failing strategy of “fighting terrorism” – the normally quiet opposition held protests in the presence of international media.

The message everywhere is clear. Most people don’t want President’s for life. No matter what the president has accomplished in office. Since 50% voted against Chavez’s policy proposals, this means that many of those who voted for his re-election a year ago rejected the new proposals that would have made him life president.

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