Best columns: International
Boycott the sham elections
It’s impossible to defeat President Vladimir Putin through the ballot box, said Garry Kasparov. Later this month, Russia will have “its so-called legislative elections,” choosing members of the rubberstamp parliament known as the State Duma. But Russia is not a real democracy. Voting is merely “an imitative mechanism intended to give the appearance of legitimacy to the regime.” Sadly, some members of the political opposition still don’t understand this basic truth. They persist in running for office, “pretending not to understand that by doing so they are playing into the Kremlin’s hands, willingly or not.” Their presence in the political process dupes Russians into believing they have agency, that they have some say in how they are ruled. But Russians have none. The media is almost entirely state-controlled. Independent journalists have been killed, and ordinary citizens are jailed “for thought crimes such as liking posts on social media.” This election has a new wrinkle: It will include ballots cast on stolen territory, Crimea, with the vote “used as a tool to legitimize annexation.” The Duma has no power; its role is to give Putin “a pseudo-democratic façade behind which hides the totalitarian essence of the regime.” Those who truly oppose Putin must not participate in the farce.
The coup that nobody takes seriously
Venezuelans have lost their capacity for outrage, said Francisco Toro. Our highest court, the Supreme Tribunal, just ruled “that everything the opposition-controlled National Assembly has done, does, and will do was, is, and will be unconstitutional”— effectively disenfranchising the entire country. It ought to be a massive political crisis that the will of the electorate, two-thirds of whom voted for the opposition in legislative elections last December, has been undone “by a gaggle of partisan hacks.” Yet the nation “mostly yawned.” Nobody really believes the Supreme Tribunal has any legitimacy. After the opposition’s resounding win last winter, the outgoing leftist legislature sought to cripple the new chamber by stacking the high court with justices loyal to their boss, President Nicolás Maduro. Then those new justices tried to kill the opposition’s majority by refusing to let three legislators take office, claiming with no evidence that there was fraud in their elections. The assembly seated the three anyway, and now the court wants to void its every law. But the Tribunal’s “unembarrassed partisanship and unfailing hackishness have destroyed its standing.” We just roll our eyes at “the nth temper tantrum from people who know they’re on their way out.”