In the New York Times, the former World Chess Champion walks us through what Venezuela’s 2018 election is probably going to look like if the regime gets away with the “recallicide”:

Once I had been selected in a real election that wasn’t official [the primaries], it was time for me to participate in an official election that was completely fake.

In order to do this, I had to jump through the official and unofficial hoops that had been put in place to prevent unapproved candidates from making it onto a ballot. Two million signatures were needed from all over the country in just one month, a task made even more herculean by the sheer size of Russia. A nominating congress had to be held, an apparently simple chore that became impossible when no hotel would rent a suitable space to us. Even American-owned hotel chains mysteriously canceled our reservations.

While I traveled across the country to campaign, we would find venues suddenly closed for repairs, our flights canceled, our meetings shut down by the police. Nor did I quite manage to stay out of jail, spending five days in a Moscow cell for participating in an “unauthorized rally.”

Sometimes, the excessive zeal of apparatchiks produces returns of more than 100 percent, as happens regularly in Russian regions like Chechnya.

Rigging an election isn’t only a matter of stuffing ballot boxes. It is not even that “the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do,” as the apocryphal quote attributed to Joseph Stalin has it. By the time the voting begins, the game is already over. Anyone who opposes the regime — from peaceful street protesters to the wealthiest man in the country — is targeted. The Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison for daring to support political groups outside of Mr. Putin’s control.

The fraud that does occur on Election Day is more about showing loyalty and getting the numbers just right to keep up appearances. Busloads of official voters go from polling station to polling station in a tradition we even have a name for: a “carousel.” Sheaves of ballots are dumped into urns while polling officials stand in the way to block the view. Sometimes, the excessive zeal of apparatchiks produces returns of more than 100 percent, as happens regularly in Russian regions like Chechnya.

To this day, I do not like the title “former Russian presidential candidate” because I knew at the start that my name would never appear on a ballot. The former prime minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov was allowed to progress one step further in his own independent run in 2008 — before being disqualified two months later.

The only candidates allowed to run in the presidential election against Mr. Putin’s handpicked successor, the former prime minister Dmitri A. Medvedev, were the same token Communist and the same token nationalist who had been running in every election since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Medvedev got 71.2 percent, a tactful few tenths of a percentage point less than Mr. Putin received in 2004. Four years later, Mr. Medvedev again switched desks with Mr. Putin, who hadn’t left power for a second regardless of his official title of prime minister. President Obama called Mr. Putin to congratulate him on his election victory, once again, as president.


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  1. You left out the best part: “A democracy is as strong as its people believe it to be. It cannot be destroyed from the outside, only from within.”

  2. Well, Mr. Putin’s one that likes trolling in complex ways, chavistas and their bosses, the castros, like a more direct approach:

    Simply outlaw every single non-puppet candidate and party, period.

  3. Tanto que tenemos que aprender de la experiencia de los cubanos y los rusos entre otros. No me extraña suceda algo parecido en Vlza. Cuales serán en ese momento los “puppets” opositores?

  4. Mención aparte el cierre referente a Obama. Muy significativo y descriptivo. Ya lo vimos en Cuba y lo vamos a ver de seguro en Venezuela por medio de su representante Thomas Shannon

  5. I was in Russia this September shortly before the Duma elections. I was both in the city and in the countryside, far away from where foreigners go.
    I think there are some obvious similarities and some big differences.
    Even though Russia has a very corrupt government and living standards have been
    dropping since 2014 quite clearly, life is still way better than it was in the nineties,
    which is not what we can say about Venezuela. There is an increase poverty and young, well educated
    Russians are leaving again, but there is still cheap food in public cafeterias and no shortages.
    Venezuela went back in 2008-12 to poverty levels like those of 1992-98 – even though debts
    allowed Giordani to buy some time for Chávez- but now things are definitely worse in Venezuela than in many decades.

    The Putin government has many more supporters than Chavismo and the rest
    is mostly indifferent, unlike Venezuela.

    I already knew about that but it was quite something to see
    it. Even my friends didn’t go to vote.
    They told me “these elections do not count”.
    The elections were the Duma elections, for goodness sake!

    In the metro I only saw ads for Edinaja Rossija, on the streets I also
    saw a few posters for a couple of other parties…mostly puppet parties and
    once a stand of Jabloko – against dozens of Edinaja Rossija.
    I saw the cops coming to take away from a very centric avenue a young guy with a board
    complaining about teachers’ wages. Another time I saw how another with another
    sign was approached by a cop but this cop went away. I am not sure if
    he went to look for more information, I just saw the board -this one had some
    complain about closing a certain music school not being patriotic and was
    thus less problematic for Putin-, I asked the man if I could take a picture and
    he said it was fine.

    I could buy government critical newspaper Novaja Gazeta in several places of the city – not outside
    but then few read newspapers and most read rubbish, like almost everywhere.

    The Internet was very fast and I could actually surf for free in many case…if
    I wanted I could have read critical stuff. But on the TV you could mostly
    see crap about how foreign (most Asian) politicians praised Putin for being
    courageous and wise.

    Coming back to Venezuela: we have a lot of opposition to Maduro. We are very vocal
    about it. At the same
    time there is a lot of tear and wear. I’d venture to say more than two million
    Venezuelans have left the country since 2004 and things are speeding up now.

    In Russia there were big marches back in 2011 and then came the repression. Since
    then people are indifferent and the brightest and youngest are leaving.

    I wonder what is going to happen now in Venezuela. It seems like in spite
    of the protests about the pseudo-dialogue no one is calling it for what it is:
    a scam that is an absolute repeat of the Church-Unasur dialogue of 2014.

    • Kepler, if I may take a stab at your question. If nothing happens Russia will take over Venezuela. The plans are in their early stages and they involve India for India is going to be the solution in their minds. Easier said than done. PDVSA is broken. Some say too broke for Rosneft’s Sechin to fix. Weaning off US refineries using Indian refineries is the plan followed by Brahmos missile purchases for Armada but Aviacion Militar and Ejercito may want Brahmos too (comisiones). Enter Navantia for Brahmos missile integration (re: Zapatero el armero). Fast forward a couple more years and we’re looking at Scorpene subs from Mazagon Dock Limited and there you have A2/D2 CRIOLLO. The projects are underway and may take time. Five years for a lot of this to start to materialize but that’s the way it is with long sales cycles and lead times.

      • India’s Brahmos missile and Scorpene submarine both contain key technology from France. This is not going to stop the transfer to Venezuela. France signed on to Brahmos for the export sales opportunity. France has never said NO to Venezuela over military purchases as evidenced by THALES deals with Armada. The bar is being lowered and the entry point is becoming easier to access the result of technology changes. FANB needs to get back to its old business model of 15% commissions on contracts and that is exactly what they are looking at. I wonder if this is on Zapatero’s mind.

  6. Ya aplazaron el juicio politico a Maduro y la marcha a Miraflores la suspendieron…

    Its done. RIP momentum!

    I cannot believe how easy it is for the MUD to fuck everything up so quickly….

  7. Thank you Quico. With your permission would like to post today’s “Club de Prensa” from Washington, DC.
    Mr Burelli is the top level for informed analysis and opinion in my opinion.


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