Bloggers respond to reports that next week's elections in Russia are already fixed. Also, massive protests against Hugo Chavez's constitutional "reform" sweep Venezuela, and British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons gets 15 days in a Sudanese prison for naming a teddy bear Mohammed, though many Sudanese Muslims are calling for her death.
Hammer (and sickle) the vote: The Guardian reports that public workers in Russia are being bullied and threatened with unemployment if they refuse to vote for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party Sunday. The goal is for the incumbent regime to take 65 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election that Putin considers a "referendum" on his leadership. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will post a mere 400 election monitors to judge the election's fairness because the Kremlin deliberately delayed issuing visas.
Putin Watcher at Perspectives on the New Russia says the current spate of election-rigging isn't all the different from what happened under Boris Yeltsin: "The perception that many of these tactics are a change from the elections in the 1990s (which are considered in the western mind as the golden age of democracy) are flawed. These same media manipulation tactics (and some others) were widely used by Yeltsin to shore up support for the Constitution (in the referendum of 1993) and to defeat the Communist party in 1996."
Not exactly, saysPajamas Media correspondent Kim Zigfield: "Before Putin, individual candidates could run for a seat in the Duma regardless of party affiliation. Before Putin, a political party only needed to have 10,000 registered members in order to get its name on the ballot, and a party only needed to garner 5% of the vote to earn itself Duma seats; those below 5% could form coalitions in order to move up to power. Today, individual candidates are banned from seeking Duma seats, voting coalitions have also been barred, and parties must have 50,000 members to get on the ballot and must win 7% of the vote to earn seats."
MoreThanaFlag at leftist DailyKos predicts: "I fully expect Putin to find a way to stay in power, and honestly, I think his party is demanding it of him, considering he seems to do a decent job of balancing the extremes of his circle of power better than anyone else in the regime could. … Putin continues to claim that he won't change the constitution, and he'd have to do such to transfer more powers to the Premiership. His style of governance also doesn't fit with the Prime Minister slot, with him then having to orchestrate a whole lot more show to get anything done."
Chekov at Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness says: "Turning a parliamentary election into a personal approval poll itself undermines the worth of that institution, but a number of strategies have been employed to ensure that the Duma will not comprise any meaningful opposition to Putin or United Russia."
Robert Amsterdam, lawyer for jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khordorkovsky warns of the planned pre-emptive celebrations by the Nashi (Nashi, or "Ours," is a pro-Putin youth movement sponsored by the Kremlin): "These items of propaganda urge Putin supporters to take to the streets in premature celebration, to defend the outcome before it is announced officially on Dec. 6. It is in many ways an open gesture of confession that even the Nashi don't believe that a real election is taking place."
Read more about the Russian elections.
Chavismo, no! Another seminal vote occurs Sunday in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is hoping to alter the country's constitution to, among other things, eliminate presidential terms limits and allow him to run for the office indefinitely. Thousands of anti-Chavez demonstrators have rallied to oppose the referendum, which they see as another creep toward dictatorship.
Michael Moynihan, an associate editor at Reason, blogs at Hit & Run: "[T]he new constitution would attempt to solidify Chavez's base by lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years-old, a tactic the Nicaraguan government successfully employed during its rigged 1984 election (Cuba too has a voting age of 16, though no elections to speak of). Chavez has also echoed the revolutionary rhetoric of Daniel Ortega, smearing any and all opponents as spies and fifth-columnists; agents of the 'Empire' and enemies of the people."
Robert Naiman defends Chavez at the Huffington Post: "It is true that one of the proposed reforms would abolish presidential term limits. But it is silly to say, as some have claimed, that this would be 'dictatorial.' The President will still have to stand for re-election, and furthermore will still be subject to recall—a democratic provision that is unique in the Americas. The United States did not have presidential term limits until 1951. Was the U.S. previously a dictatorship?"
Read more about the anti-Chavez protests.
Grizzly circumstances: Gillian Gibbons, the British schoolteacher who was tried and convicted in Sudan for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed, has been sentenced to 15 days in jail. A massive wave of protests have gripped the streets of Khartoum with calls for her murder, under sharia, for insulting the prophet.
Allahpundit at Hot Air applauds the Muslim Council of Britain and the American Islamic Congress for doing a "bang-up job agitating on Gibbons's behalf. There's a hint in the Daily Mail piece that she might be released early, probably just to make this go away before it causes any more headaches internationally for the Sudanese government. … Look on the bright side. She's in for a big media payday once she gets back to the UK, assuming she makes it back. Exit question: How 'bout some British Muslim counterprotests, hey?"
Lawhawk at A Blog for All looks at the photos of the angry mob: "More than just a few hundred folks. Lots of knives gleaming in the sun. Gibbons has been taken to a secret location, which tells you that the Sudanese government knows a lynch mob would tear the place apart to deal her the punishment they see fit."
Fred Stopsky at the Impudent Observer "knows the overwhelming majority of Muslims believe Judge Youssef and the Sudan court system behaved in an incredible stupid manner by even identifying this situation as an example of 'insulting religion.' The best solution at this time is for every ambassador to leave the Sudan for a month in protest against the close minded fools who actually believe naming a teddy bear Jesus or Muhammad, or Moses, or bin Laden or teddy makes a difference in our lives."
Read more about Gibbons' sentence.