Ryzhkov: Putin is starting to Freak

Vladmir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

Although we won’t see any real political modernization as a result of the State Council session on Friday, there is one big benefit from the meeting: Russia’s rulers effectively admitted that the authoritarian vertical power structure is in a crisis. What’s more, the leaders showed their confusion and fear over that crisis in front of the entire nation.

Kaliningrad Governor Georgy Boos gave the most candid assessment of the increasing turbulence in Russia’s police state. He said what everybody had been thinking but had been too afraid to say. “Accusations of falsification of election returns should not become systemic in nature. Otherwise, public opinion might question the legitimacy of the authorities. … This is very dangerous,” he said.

The same panicky fear over the growing erosion of the government’s legitimacy has taken hold of President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his right hand man in United Russia, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. Medvedev unexpectedly announced: “In general, the results of the regional elections reflect the real balance of the political forces and public sympathies in the country. This is an irrefutable fact.” Like Boos, Medvedev called on people not to blame the electoral system as a whole since it would constitute a form of “legal nihilism.” (Most people were left scratching their heads on that point trying to follow Medvedev’s logic.) Putin, in his typically blunt manner, denied charges that massive falsification had taken place. Gryzlov blamed the opposition parties for undermining trust in the political system, for knowingly provoking violations and of being out of touch with the voters.

The Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia and Yabloko cited some of the more outrageous examples of election law violations that had been registered before and during the Oct. 11 vote — for example, when courts and law enforcement agencies concealed countless incidents of falsifying results, the barring of dozens of unwanted candidates from registering, and the unfair conditions under which candidates across the country were forced to compete against United Russia members. In answer to these allegations, Putin and Medvedev recommended one recourse to everyone who was dissatisfied with the elections — take their complaints to court. Boos chimed in with his full support, saying Russia has “a court system that is sufficiently effective, where people can file charges of violations.”

What a great idea — recommending that people waste their time and energy on a wild goose chase through the Kremlin-friendly courts. This is another crude attempt by Putin and Medvedev to stifle criticism. It is particularly cynical, considering that even the Kremlin-friendly Russian Public Opinion Research Center published findings that public trust in the court system is the lowest among all social institutions — lower even than law enforcement agencies, which is saying a lot! The only court that Russians trust is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. This is why it has been inundated with thousands of claims made by Russians who could not obtain justice at home.

In addition, it is well known that Russians have a fundamental lack of faith in elections as an institution. The Levada Center conducted a representative survey of Muscovites prior to and following last October’s elections.  It turned out that, on the eve of elections, 62 percent of Moscow residents believed that the elections would be uncompetitive and that all of the posts in the City Duma had been allotted by the authorities beforehand. About 40 percent of respondents anticipated the falsification and manipulation of the election results, and only 17 percent expected an honest vote.

The real and very serious problem is that Putin’s political and electoral systems have already lost their legitimacy in the eyes of tens of millions of people. And the dissolution of Putin’s and United Russia’s legitimacy is proceeding at a rate that is very alarming to the authorities.

Russia’s political and intellectual elite also passed their verdict on the “power vertical” and “managed elections.” According to research conducted a year ago by Mikhail Afanasyev, only 29 percent of respondents saw Putin’s authoritarian power vertical as being beneficial to the country, while 61 percent felt that “activities for strengthening the vertical of authority have led to an excessive concentration of power and the bureaucratization of all systems of government, thereby lowering their social efficacy.” Only 36 percent of the elite believed that elections in Russia remained free, and 60 percent answered that the situation regarding elections was “unacceptable and unsatisfactory.” Nonetheless, Medvedev has remained firm in his insistence that “our political system works.”

Nothing will change as a result of Medvedev’s high-sounding calls to respect different, opposing opinions or his half-baked measures such as the introduction of electronic vote-counting machines, guarantees of one or two mandates for parties surpassing the 5 percent barrier in the regions and his order that governors converse more with their constituents. Nobody listens to his admonitions, and his proposals for concrete measures are too insignificant to make a difference.

The main barriers to the democratic legitimacy of the state remain firmly set. The “political market” is closed tight, and real opposition parties are not allowed to enter and participate. The Kremlin needs a strong United Russia majority in legislative bodies on both the federal and regional levels, and the falsification of election results to conform to “mandatory figures” dictated from above were clearly intended to maintain and strengthen this majority. The ruling regime has fallen into a classic Catch-22: While it continues to lose legitimacy in the public opinion, it is forced to consider democratic reforms as a means to placate a discontent populace, but it is reluctant to adopt these measures for fear of losing its autocratic grip on power in free, competitive elections.

The regime is thrashing about in desperation as it attempts to find a way out of its fatal trap. Like Putin, who favors “managed democracy” as the only acceptable form of freedom — which is to say, of course, very little freedom — Medvedev favors “managed liberalization.” To Zyuganov’s warning that Putin’s rejection of needed reforms could lead Russia to repeat the unhappy fate of the Soviet Union, Putin snapped back, “The Soviet Union started to reform, and where did it all end?”

In one of Putin’s more colorful remarks, he said Russia’s political system should not resemble gelatin that shakes when you touch it. One way to keep gelatin from shaking is to chill it. Russia is a good place for this. It is chilly not only in terms of climate, but democracy as well. If Putin and Medvedev get their way, don’t expect too many political thaws in Russia’s deep political permafrost.Although we won’t see any real political modernization as a result of the State Council session on Friday, there is one big benefit from the meeting: Russia’s rulers effectively admitted that the authoritarian vertical power structure is in a crisis. What’s more, the leaders showed their confusion and fear over that crisis in front of the entire nation.

Kaliningrad Governor Georgy Boos gave the most candid assessment of the increasing turbulence in Russia’s police state. He said what everybody had been thinking but had been too afraid to say. “Accusations of falsification of election returns should not become systemic in nature. Otherwise, public opinion might question the legitimacy of the authorities. … This is very dangerous,” he said.

The same panicky fear over the growing erosion of the government’s legitimacy has taken hold of President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his right hand man in United Russia, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. Medvedev unexpectedly announced: “In general, the results of the regional elections reflect the real balance of the political forces and public sympathies in the country. This is an irrefutable fact.” Like Boos, Medvedev called on people not to blame the electoral system as a whole since it would constitute a form of “legal nihilism.” (Most people were left scratching their heads on that point trying to follow Medvedev’s logic.) Putin, in his typically blunt manner, denied charges that massive falsification had taken place. Gryzlov blamed the opposition parties for undermining trust in the political system, for knowingly provoking violations and of being out of touch with the voters.

The Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia and Yabloko cited some of the more outrageous examples of election law violations that had been registered before and during the Oct. 11 vote — for example, when courts and law enforcement agencies concealed countless incidents of falsifying results, the barring of dozens of unwanted candidates from registering, and the unfair conditions under which candidates across the country were forced to compete against United Russia members. In answer to these allegations, Putin and Medvedev recommended one recourse to everyone who was dissatisfied with the elections — take their complaints to court. Boos chimed in with his full support, saying Russia has “a court system that is sufficiently effective, where people can file charges of violations.”

What a great idea — recommending that people waste their time and energy on a wild goose chase through the Kremlin-friendly courts. This is another crude attempt by Putin and Medvedev to stifle criticism. It is particularly cynical, considering that even the Kremlin-friendly Russian Public Opinion Research Center published findings that public trust in the court system is the lowest among all social institutions — lower even than law enforcement agencies, which is saying a lot! The only court that Russians trust is the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. This is why it has been inundated with thousands of claims made by Russians who could not obtain justice at home.

In addition, it is well known that Russians have a fundamental lack of faith in elections as an institution. The Levada Center conducted a representative survey of Muscovites prior to and following last October’s elections. It turned out that, on the eve of elections, 62 percent of Moscow residents believed that the elections would be uncompetitive and that all of the posts in the City Duma had been allotted by the authorities beforehand. About 40 percent of respondents anticipated the falsification and manipulation of the election results, and only 17 percent expected an honest vote.

The real and very serious problem is that Putin’s political and electoral systems have already lost their legitimacy in the eyes of tens of millions of people. And the dissolution of Putin’s and United Russia’s legitimacy is proceeding at a rate that is very alarming to the authorities.

Russia’s political and intellectual elite also passed their verdict on the “power vertical” and “managed elections.” According to research conducted a year ago by Mikhail Afanasyev, only 29 percent of respondents saw Putin’s authoritarian power vertical as being beneficial to the country, while 61 percent felt that “activities for strengthening the vertical of authority have led to an excessive concentration of power and the bureaucratization of all systems of government, thereby lowering their social efficacy.” Only 36 percent of the elite believed that elections in Russia remained free, and 60 percent answered that the situation regarding elections was “unacceptable and unsatisfactory.” Nonetheless, Medvedev has remained firm in his insistence that “our political system works.”

Nothing will change as a result of Medvedev’s high-sounding calls to respect different, opposing opinions or his half-baked measures such as the introduction of electronic vote-counting machines, guarantees of one or two mandates for parties surpassing the 5 percent barrier in the regions and his order that governors converse more with their constituents. Nobody listens to his admonitions, and his proposals for concrete measures are too insignificant to make a difference.

The main barriers to the democratic legitimacy of the state remain firmly set. The “political market” is closed tight, and real opposition parties are not allowed to enter and participate. The Kremlin needs a strong United Russia majority in legislative bodies on both the federal and regional levels, and the falsification of election results to conform to “mandatory figures” dictated from above were clearly intended to maintain and strengthen this majority. The ruling regime has fallen into a classic Catch-22: While it continues to lose legitimacy in the public opinion, it is forced to consider democratic reforms as a means to placate a discontent populace, but it is reluctant to adopt these measures for fear of losing its autocratic grip on power in free, competitive elections.

The regime is thrashing about in desperation as it attempts to find a way out of its fatal trap. Like Putin, who favors “managed democracy” as the only acceptable form of freedom — which is to say, of course, very little freedom — Medvedev favors “managed liberalization.” To Zyuganov’s warning that Putin’s rejection of needed reforms could lead Russia to repeat the unhappy fate of the Soviet Union, Putin snapped back, “The Soviet Union started to reform, and where did it all end?”

In one of Putin’s more colorful remarks, he said Russia’s political system should not resemble gelatin that shakes when you touch it. One way to keep gelatin from shaking is to chill it. Russia is a good place for this. It is chilly not only in terms of climate, but democracy as well. If Putin and Medvedev get their way, don’t expect too many political thaws in Russia’s deep political permafrost.

14 responses to “Ryzhkov: Putin is starting to Freak

  1. La Russophobe, how strong is the Putin regime in your opinion? Are they strong enough to bring the military to the streets and silence all revolts, as it happened in China, or are they too weak to stop the tide and will have to step down, just like it happened with Soviet communists? I can’ really make my mind.

  2. Putin’s murderous regime is close to the end in my opinion. The signs have been there for all to see for some time.

    All they had to do from the beginning was refrain from stealing from new business establishments (or old ones for that matter). No one will establish a business or industrial enterprise when goons will soon be on the scene and rob you blind.

    They depended on oil. Anyone knows that commodities are boom and bust.

    Also they started wars!!!

    Another thing is that people do not like it when journalists are openly killed for God’s sake.

    When other governments are all against you they can make a lot of trouble.

  3. Putin’s little ginger head must be spinning, Finally there is real political unrest within Russia, the October 11th elections were a travesty, the blatant wide spread fraud was too much even for Russia’s weak and impotent opposition prompting them to walk out of the Duma shortly after the bogus results were announced.

    Here is a typical example as to why the opposition walked out.

    On December 3, the Derbent city court in the Republic of Dagestan nullified the results of the October 11 election, which was marked by a number of scandals and violations.

    According to official results, Felix Kaziahkmedov from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party won the mayoral seat for a second term with 67.5 per cent of the vote.
    According to official data, out of 36 polling stations in Derbent, only 23 opened on the Election Day. “Moreover, they [the polling stations] repeatedly interrupted their work, explaining it by different reasons, including a bomb threat, “Also would be voters were expelled for no apparent reason CEC Chairman Vladimir Churov said that after the voting in Derbent, eight criminal cases were launched, including alleged bribery of electors by one of the candidates, (Kaziahkmedov), this not so democratic process also witnessed forged ballots and threats to a chairman of one of local election commissions.

    Here’s another one where Putin’s United Russia were a little over zealous.

    A court in Moscow ordered a ballot recount and the city election committee filed a request to instigate a case against certain wrongdoings. The reason for the recount was a complaint by Sergey Mitrokhin – the leader of the opposition party Yabloko – who discovered that not a single vote had been cast for his party in the Khamovniki District in central Moscow where he and his family voted. ooops!.

    Putin’s Russia a “beacon of totalitarianism”

    • I thought that Putin would be stronger and smarter. Fortunately, I was wrong. Is Russia really heading towards a ‘color revolution’?

      • Unfortunately, no. It is way far from any kind of coloured activities. The majority loves Putin or at least agrees to put up with his form of government due to the lack of any viable alternative and there are no signs of change.

      • The funny thing here is they’re actually falsyfying results without any reason – thanks to their brainwashing TV propaganda machine, they would win anyway, and the parliamentary “opposition” is controlled too. They seem to be doing this just for sport.

        @Here’s another one where Putin’s United Russia were a little over zealous.

        You can’t beat Chechnya:

        After the earthquake, the authorities tried hard to convince the population that nothing had happened. This was because the elections for Chechen parliament, known as “Kadyrov’s parliament,” were scheduled for the very next day and the authorities were really afraid that the aftermath of a natural disaster would reduce the voter turnout. Moreover, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov stated during a television interview carried live by the central Russian TV channels that the voter turnout during the “elections” in Chechnya would “be no less than 100 percent and maybe even more” (RIA Novosti, October 12; North Caucasus Weekly, October 16).

        And at the previous year’s federal “election”:

        The figures indicated that 99.2 percent of voters in the war-ravaged region of southern Russia had taken part in the poll and 99.3 percent of them had voted for United Russia. This was the highest vote for Putin anywhere in Russia, where overall turnout was 62 percent and just over 64 percent of votes were cast for United Russia. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a former separatist warlord turned Kremlin ally, was one of the few people not to be surprised by the result. He had publicly promised beforehand to deliver 100 percent of his republic’s vote for Putin.

        http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL03585550._CH_.2400

  4. Kalman Balatony

    I’d disagree. Mostly everyone (at least in the intellectual-politcial arena) hates Putin in Russia:

    – Nationalists (not Kremlin puppet LDPR) hate him because influx of millions of immigrants from Central Asia and Transcaucasia and systematic persecution of nationalists
    – Leftists hate him because they’re leftists and hate everything (Like the AKM)
    – Human rights activists hate him because of systematic persecution of dissidents (journalists, etc.) and for maintaining a police state.

    • @and systematic persecution of nationalists

      More like very occasional prosecution (and even nationalist serial killers receive very low sentences if convicted).

  5. It makes sense. But I talk about the grassroots, you know, people around me. I do not see any hatred pointed in his direction, just a general everlasting moaning. You cannot have any true liberating activity without them being involved.

    Of those groups mentioned by you, I would guess that the first one can be the most detrimental to the current government.

  6. Kalman Balatony = you’re wrong, DPNI is no kremlin’s puppet but in opposite is seen as being paid by “abroad” to destabilize russian’s society.

    Look, even Ukrainians neo-nazis supported Orange revolution in Ukraine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_National_Assembly_%E2%80%93_Ukrainian_National_Self_Defence

  7. Pingback: Official Russia | Ryzhkov, Recurring Data, and the Disappearing Blogger

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