Thursday, May 12, 2005

Putin vs. Martin: Who's real leader? - Complacent Nation

See: Putin vs. Martin: Who's real leader? - Complacent Nation


Source: Shaken, Occasionally Stirred


Anyone who watched 60 Minutes last Sunday saw a fascinating interview with Russia's Vladimir Putin defending his version of democracy to interviewer Mike Wallace.

Putin was justifying why he appointed his people to head some regions rather than trust voters to choose the right guy. He defended a crackdown on corruption by questionable legal means and implied it was no one's business how he ran the country. Russian "democracy" wasn't U.S. democracy.

In some ways, Putin's version of democracy seemed to parallel aspects of Canada's democracy under Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Just as Martin ignores a vote in the Commons that shows lack of confidence in his government, so Putin ignores criticism of the way he shuts down opponents, tries to influence elections and puts controls on the media.

Canada has the CBC, which is a government-funded agency, just as much of the media in Russia is -- or has been -- controlled by government. Regardless of what we may think of the CBC, we should remember that who pays the piper calls the tune.

One can sympathize with Putin's desire to curb the corruption of neo-criminal billionaires who rose to wealth and plundered the economy while Boris Yeltsin was in erratic control.

Similarly, one can sympathize (sort of) with Martin's embarrassment over the corruption embedded within his Liberal party, as revealed in testimony at the Gomery inquiry about suitcases filled with cash for the faithful.

As for democratic differences and similarities between a Canadian PM and a post-Soviet Russian president, both have more individual power than one might expect in a genuine democracy. Neither Putin nor Martin has to persuade a skeptical Congress when they want to do something. The PM can choose candidates to run for elected office and can reject those of whom he disapproves. He appoints judges, without any system of checks and balances, and appoints senators without concern for the people's wishes. Our PM isn't even elected by direct vote, as is Putin (and the American president).

The PM is chosen by the party, and once chosen, controls the caucus and isn't accountable to the people. Heck, Martin isn't even accountable to Parliament -- which by a narrow margin this week registered its lack of confidence in him.

At the moment, Canada is in a state of near paralysis. Little is being generated except acrimony. A general election is necessary to clear the air -- if not to rid Parliament of the stench caused by Liberal corruption, deceit, cynicism.

Forget polls that show roughly an equal number of Canadians say they won't vote Conservative because they don't want an election, and others who say they won't vote Liberal because of their corruption. In Putin, we have an obviously tough guy who's cool and controlled and doesn't intimidate easily.

In Martin, we have a frenetic guy who seems fearful of everything and has to bribe or blackmail his own party to hold on. Putin, at least, knows what he is doing.

He's the guy in charge, and from the 60 Minutes interview seems to appreciate U.S. President George Bush more than Canadian leaders do, if only because, as Putin says, Bush is straightforward and does what he says he is going to do. Putin, too, has this quality.

Not Martin. He's not going to attend VE-Day ceremonies in Holland, then changes his mind, brings along opposition leaders as a security blanket, then is late for the ceremony, then makes an ass of himself in front of vets.

This is leadership? A guy who leads a party that's afraid to risk an election?

Let's get the damn thing over with, and if Martin's Liberals are re-elected, we have no one to blame but ourselves.