EDITORIAL: “Elections” in Russia


“Elections” in Russia

Surely the most telling indicator of the barbaric depths to which Vladimir Putin’s KGB regime has driven Russia is the plain impossibility of using normal democratic terminology to describe his regime.  One must use quotation marks when referring to “president” Putin and “prime minister” Medvedev since not only were their elevations to these posts shamelessly rigged but nobody has any real idea which job either man is doing, not even in regard to the management of Russia’s economic catastrophe.  It’s quite convenient for both, of course, since that means it is impossible to apportion blame when their policies fail disastrously, as for example when we watch the Russian stock market continue to slip beneath the waves despite their massive campaign to artificially inflate its value with government purchases.

And above all, though, one must use quotation marks when referring to “elections” in Russia, as last weekend’s local polls across the country showed so horrifyingly.

As the Moscow Times reports, regional, mayoral and municipal votes were held in 77 of the country’s 85 regions.  Candidates from Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party pf power lost exactly one of those 77 “elections.”  Kremlin-friendly oligarch Roman Abramovich was “elected” governor of the Chukotka region with over 90% of the vote, and two of his henchman were elected to the local parliament, which has only 12 total members.  The MT states: “Despite an earthquake Saturday that killed 13 people, Chechnya still managed to register the highest turnout for the day, with 95.1 percent of all eligible voters casting ballots.”  Over 88.4% of those voters opted for United Russia, their largest regional win, with the region of Kemerovo in second place with 85% lemming-like support for Putin.

Writing in the MT the Carnegie Centre’s Nikolai Petrov states:

A distinctive feature of this year’s voting process was the fact that parties lacking representation in the State Duma were denied the opportunity to register for regional elections, effectively locking in a four-party system. Irkutsk set especially high barriers, requiring interested parties to gather 36,000 signatures — 2 percent of all eligible voters — or put up a 6 million ruble ($229,000) bond.  These parties were not allowed to participate in the elections because more than 10 percent of the signatures they gathered were deemed invalid: in Kemerovo, the Union of Right Forces and the Peace and Unity Party; and in Zabaikalsky region, the Democratic Party of Russia.

The greatest number of parties — seven — were permitted to participate in the elections in Chechnya. There, only the Green Party did not pass muster with its list of signatures, and immediately after being disqualified, it teamed up with United Russia. Thus, Chechnya was not only among the first to switch over to the recommended proportional electoral system, but also demonstrated the greatest political pluralism in the new tandem of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. But at the end of the day, United Russia received nearly 90 percent of the votes.

These elections, in which not a single democratic party was allowed to participate, became part of the Kremlin’s strategy for purging the political field and especially to force right-wing parties such as the Union of Right Forces to unite with other more politically palatable parties.

Of course, it suits the Kremlin when the country’s political parties are completely dependent on Moscow. The only problem is that regional parliaments filled with deputies chosen by Moscow will be capable of doing little more than passing along instructions from the top. That might have been adequate during an economic boom period, but it is at odds with the current economic and political realities.

What word can be used to describe these proceedings except barbarism?  If the stock market losing nearly 75% of its value in the space of a few months and the entire world repudiating Russian aggression in Georgia is not sufficient to dent Putin’s popularity, then how can anyone claim that support is in any way meaningful? What would Putin have to do in order to cause his support to fall below 75%?  Would building GULAGs be enough? Or would the streets have to flow with blood?

What’s happening in Putin’s Russia is clear:  Slowly but surely, Putin is doing the only thing he knows how to do, impose Soviet government.  With every day that passes, Russia looks more and more like the USSR, with local government total dominated by one party, subservient to Moscow, and only able to “pass along instructions” from the Kremlin, not to think for itself and adjust to local realities.  That course of action destroyed the USSR, and it will do the same to neo-Soviet Russia.

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