Wednesday :: Mar 5, 2008

And speaking of "elections"...

by Turkana

Over the weekend, Russia also held a presidential election. Sort of. It was the type of election that has come to typify the dismantling of nascent Russian democracy under Vladimir Putin. On Saturday, the Guardian had this:

The Kremlin is planning to falsify the results of tomorrow's presidential election by compelling millions of public-sector workers to vote and by fraudulently boosting the official turnout, the Guardian has been told by independent sources.

Governors, regional officials and even headteachers have been instructed to deliver a landslide majority for Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's first deputy prime minister, whom President Vladimir Putin has endorsed as his successor.

Officials have been told they need to secure a 68-70% turnout in this weekend's poll, with about 72% voting for Medvedev. Independent analysts believe the real turnout will be much lower, with 25-50% of the electorate taking part.

The Kremlin is planning to bridge the gap through widespread fraud, diplomats and other independent sources have told the Guardian. Local election officials are preparing to stuff ballot boxes once polls have closed, they believe, with regional officials giving inflated tallies to Russia's central election commission.

Additionally, public-sector workers including teachers, students and doctors have been told to vote tomorrow or risk serious consequences. Parents have even been warned that if they fail to turn up their children might suffer at school.

A few days earlier, Spiegel Online had this perspective:

Dmitry Medvedev is expected to become Russia's new president on Sunday. A protege of current President Vladimir Putin, Medvedev is suddenly calling for a stronger emphasis on the rule of law, the market economy and freedom of the press. But many in Moscow have their doubts that the new president will become the country's real leader.

And why would they have doubts? Some questions:

What has prompted Putin, the most popular Kremlin leader in a long time, to switch to the subordinate position after the end of his constitutionally limited term in office? And what distinguishes his successor Medvedev, 42, a lawyer from St. Petersburg who was considered subservient until now? Merely the ability to be subservient? Could Russia be facing a system of co-sovereignty, but with the roles reversed -- with Putin remaining in command, but as prime minister, and first mate Medvedev moving to the Kremlin?

It's a long and thorough article, and I highly recommend it.

Medvedev is also an oil baron, and I'm guessing that when Bush looks in his eyes, he will like his sense of the man's soul. I'm sure he will also be impressed that Medvedev was "elected" with just over 70% of the vote, which was just a tad less than Putin got, when he was "re-elected", four years ago. Apparently, neither man is quite as popular as were the Soviet era Russian leaders, but I'm sure they'll work on it. Strangely, the only international monitors to observe the election said it was neither "free" nor "fair". And some Russians seem to believe it should have been.

Turkana :: 1:41 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!