Thursday, December 04, 2008

Still a one man show? 

No sooner than the regional elections were over than Chavez announced he would like to look into again trying to have term limits removed so that he could seek another term. In fact, though details aren't clear, it appears he would like this possibly voted on early next year.

As most probably know, I don't have a strong opinion about terms limits one way or the other. I do sometimes favor them, mainly for legislative offices, but don't view them as necessary. Most people know whether they like a president or not and if they like him/her what is the harm of allowing them to vote for them again?

The fact that the constitutional reform of a year ago, which included removing term limits, got voted down probably had as much to do with the fact that it also made terms longer and recall referendums more difficult as it did with the repeal term limits.

However, if I were Venezuelan and had a say in the current effort to change the term limits, which I don't, what would I do? I think I'd vote against changing them for several reasons, none having to do with term limits per say.

Let me give my reasons in no particular order:

1) Venezuela has had one big election each year for the past god knows how many years. This has created electoral fatigue and, in my view, distracted the government from governing. Worse, it has created a short time horizon for government policies (no pain allowed before elections) and has therefore prevented them from taking actions that might be painful in the short term but quite beneficial over the medium and long term. Having yet another vote simply continues this problem. Venezuela could really use a break from these elections for a year or two.

2) Why do term limits need to be focused on now when President Chavez's term isn't even up for another FOUR years? Couldn't he just govern over those next four years and if things are going well and it is deemed necessary for him to have another term THEN propose reforming the Constitution? It would seem to me that he could (unless of course he is pessimistic about Venezuela's future). At the very least why can't this proposal wait and be voted on at the same time another election HAS to be held, such as the Legislative elections which are coming in 2010?

3) After 10 years why is there no leadership within the movement that Chavez leads besides Chavez???? In any truly participatory and democratic movement there should be plenty of potential leaders - and surely in a movement as large as the one Chavez leads that has millions of adherents. So where are they, why aren't they being developed and given more power, and why won't THEY be ready to take the reigns in what will be 14 years after this movement first took power??? I hate to say it but its hard for me to believe that in 14 years new leadership can't be developed unless the movement is not actively trying to develop it or even worse it possibly is even thwarting it.

One could go further - can a movement that depends on one person in perpetuity truly be considered revolutionary?? Can it be truly considered democratic?? I am not certain of the answers to either of those questions but I lean towards saying NO.

It is one of the great ironies of the Left, not just in Venezuela but throughout the whole world, that it almost always has political parties based on single personalities. This is particularly ironic in light of the fact that most Leftists think of themselves as independent thinkers. And of course, this makes those movements extremely fragile and vulnerable both to outside subversion AND to that one leader not making good decisions and/or falling in love with power.

Given all this I think Venezuelans telling Chavez to concentrate on governing AND developing new leadership by voting NO on any new proposal to eliminate term limits would be a good idea. If Chavez wants the political movement he leads to survive then let him start doing what he should be doing anyways - developing new leadership that can take the reigns in the not too distant future.


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