Having chucked presidential term limits, Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez recently won re-election to a third six-year term in office. Not surprising.
What is surprising, according to Francisco Toro writing in the New Republic, is that the election was so close.
Toro, writing before election day, wasn’t surprised that the failings of Chavez’s socialistic and repressive policies have been getting harder for the public to evade. But in an “increasingly autocratic petrostate, the advantages of incumbency are so deep, [re-election] really ought to be a walk.”
Toro saw Chavez’s own campaign as awkward and unpersuasive, the challenger’s as smart and effective. Come October 7, though, the former tramped across the finish line with 54 percent, a comfortable if smaller margin than he had enjoyed in previous elections.
Chavez’s advantages included rules for political ads permitting each candidate to advertise only three minutes a day on each broadcast outlet — even as the incumbent ran frequent “institutional” ads promoting the government’s doings that looked an awful lot like campaign ads. During the campaign, his government often claimed emergency to take over the air waves to spout campaign pitches. All this is in the context of years of efforts to increase the number of state-owned media and browbeat private media into uncritical silence.
The more tyrannical a government becomes, the more urgently a citizenry needs term limits in self-protection. Yet the more tyrannical a government becomes, the more easily it can get rid of such safeguards.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.