Today I want to start an on-going rubric: What's the Difference between the actions of so-called developed, liberal governments, and under-developed socialist or authoritarian governments? Every day I'm struck by how, each in its own context, repressive or dishonest behaviors are basically the same, the differences being of degree rather than kind.
1) This week's Economist "reveals" that Vladimir Putin is hand-picking is successor for the 2008 presidential elections, in which he cannot run. It notes: "The Kremlin wants to anticipate the public mood, and is testing its candidates and the ideas they embody on television and in opinion polls."
Apparently not flattered by this imitation, Condolezza Rice, the article goes on to say, "expressed concern about two of the Kremlin's methods: muzzling the media, and the haphazard application a new law that regulates non-governmental organizations. The voting (and counting) will not doubt be closely orchestrated too. Russian liberals are helplessly depressed about their chances of disrupting the coronation.....Mikail Kasyanov, a former prime minister turned would-be opposition leader, predicts a national crisis following a manipulated election.
So much for differences between Russian and American elections. But there's more:
"An unbridgeable split within the elite might yet allow a flamboyant authoritarian challenger to emerge. Or more likely, it might encourage Mr. Putin to stay in power. That does not necessarily mean changing Russia's constitution to remain in office for a third term...there are other ways, such as a redistribution of powers between the presidency, government and parliament. On October 25th, in a tsar-like (sic) televised phone-in Mr Putin bolstered that idea by saying enigmatically that "with you (the voters) we can influence the life of the country" after 2008.
That's Mr. Putin taking his cue from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.