[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
If Jacob Zuma is elected President of South Africa sometime next year, some of us will probably bemoan the fact that the voters had entrusted a man facing very serious criminal charges (carrying a 15 year compulsory jail term) with the most important job in the country. The Afro-pessimists will mutter that “only in Africa” this kind of thing can happen.
But that would, of course, be rubbish. After all, Sylvio Berlusconi was re-elected prime Minister of Italy despite his various legal troubles. Even more interesting, I note that it now seems likely (though incredible), that septuple felon Ted Stevens has in fact won his Alaska Senate race against Democrat Mark Begich., Stevens had already been convicted, yet it seems as if he will be re-elected to the US Senate.
This does not make a Zuma Presidency admirable or wise and neither does it validate the outragous decision by the ANC NEC to back Zuma for the Presidency regardless of what happens with his court case. However, it does place it in perspective. After all, although Schabir Shaik has already been convicted of corrupting Zuma, Zuma has not been convicted of any crime – unlike Stevens.
It places South African voters on par with the voters of Alaska – who has elected Sarah Palin as its Governor. This does not flatter South African (or Alaskan) voters, but neither does it signal the end of the world either. Potential or real crooks seem to populate politics all over the world….
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