Another victory for Hugo “Why don’t you shut up” Chavez, another step towards dictatorship in Venezuela. The successful referendum allows the president to be reelected again and again and again and… The next logical step would be to institutionalise the Bolivarian revolution and to declare elections to be an unnecessary capitalist relic.
The problem is not limited to Venezuela. Chavez’ allies in the effort of throwing Latin America back into the ideological middle ages – especially Evo Morales and the eternal Sandinista Daniel Ortega, will hardly resist the temptation to imitate his success. And I won’t mention Cuba.
Venezuela has become a study case of what kind of power cheap populism, control over media and practically endless resources can produce. And a great example of how little “free and fair” elections have to say about the internal democracy of a state.
Yes, you may have guessed – here’s the link to the Balkans. It is yet another year of elections: Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, possibly Kosovo (although rather unlikely). In any case, a costly exercise to demonstrate that the ruling, ethically and morally bankrupt elites enjoy the legitimacy to govern their countries. And this is regardless of their current role as government or opposition.
In the end, the people will go through the exercise, the West will observe and monitor and what will have changed? These elites are in no position to turn their fiefdoms into blooming democracies. One might even question their will to do so. And they don’t need Chavez’ tactics – they have recycled the old communist habit of rotation of cadres. A favourite is to switch between the position of prime minister and president – Berisha, Đukanović, Crvenkovski, I wonder who next… What makes them different from the self-styled Bolivarian revolutionary is that they don’t have endless resources to bribe the entire population. All they have left is promises, media control, intimidation – and the good, old and efficient systems of cronyism and clientelism. Thus they ensure a status-quo in terms of being indispensable and in charge, while the societal decay is creating havoc. Just take Skopje’s latest architectonic landmark – the museum of Mother Theresa, or the plan to have a statue of Alexander the Great on the main square surrounded by a fountain bouncing to the music of Toše Proeski! Ah, and I can’t wait to see the plans for the new church next to the main square. An elite gone haywire, followed and cherished or despised by an isolated, economically, socially and culturally impoverished population.
All this of course has nothing to do with the process of European integration. Because this one is driven by a strictly bureaucratic approach, it ignores these realities. But can we afford to bring more failed societies into the Union? As if Italy and Greece, Romania and Bulgaria didn’t cause enough problems already. Wouldn’t it be time to start addressing some of these problems as well? Wouldn’t it be time to start to perceive and conceive Europe as a cultural project in the widest sense?
If we don’t, it will be us paying the bill anyway. And in the meanwhile we will monitor many, many more meaningless elections. Unless someone in the Balkans holds a referendum…
Vision? Yeah, right…