The New York Times
December 03, 2007
Is democracy batting 1 for 3 in today’s rush of election news? Here’s a look at developments in Venezuela, Russia and Pakistan posted to NYTimes.com’s homepage today.
All Hail Venezuelan Democracy
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela suffered his first major electoral defeat in nine years in a referendum that would have granted him sweeping powers. His reaction seemed to bow to democracy, via The Associated Press:
Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace that the outcome of Sunday’s balloting had taught him that “Venezuelan democracy is maturing.” His respect for the verdict, he asserted, proves he is a true democratic leader.
“From this moment on, let’s be calm,” he proposed, asking for no more street violence like the clashes that marred pre-vote protests. “There is no dictatorship here.”
The White House agrees with President Chavez on little, but a statement from Gordon Johndroe of the National Security Council today hailed the vote as a sign that “freedom and democracy” was on the march.
“It’s, in all senses, a victory, and once again a show of the Venezuelan support for democracy,” an expert on South American politics told the Council on Foreign Relations.
Russian Democracy Down and Out
European monitors were unsparing in their criticism of Russia’s election on Sunday, which President Vladimir V. Putin’s party dominated. The monitors decried “a clear abuse of power and a clear violation of international commitments and standards.” More from The New York Times:
Balloting, the monitors said in a statement, “took place in an atmosphere which seriously limited political competition and with frequent abuse of administrative resources, media coverage strongly in favor of the ruling party, and an election code whose cumulative effect hindered political pluralism.”
Luc van den Brande of Belgium, leader of the mission from the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, said Mr. Putin had improperly used the Kremlin to help United Russia. “There are a lot of concerns about the evolution of democracy in the country,” Mr. van den Brande said.
Pakistani Candidate Suffers a Blow
As emergency rule continues in Pakistan, a leading member of the opposition was barred from parliamentary elections on Jan. 8. The ruling originated with the election commission, which said a criminal record prevented them from clearing Nawaz Sharif from running. But Mr. Sharif’s spokesman blamed Mr. Musharraf for trying to rig the election.
“This proves our point that without an independent judiciary there cannot be free and fair elections,” Ahsan Iqbal told The Times.