Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman devoted a segment of her Monday show to Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. You can listen to it here. The segment includes a discussion with Nation Magazine editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Richard Behar, former investigative journalist for Forbes Magazine and current director of Project Khlebnikov. Project Khlebnikov is dedicated to finding the murderer of Forbes Russia editor Paul Khlebnikov, who was murdered on July 9, 2004. His murder has yet to be solved.
In the discussion Vanden Heuvel and Behar address Politkovskaya’s work, reasons for her murder, the status of the press in Russia, and how the murder is a reflection of Putin’s rule.
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By Sean — 13 years ago
The votes are counted. The winners declared. Now comes the fun part: the analysis. There isn’t much to say about the Kazakh Presidential election which isn’t already evident. There was no colored revolution. There wasn’t even an attempt at protest. The ballots were certainly stuffed. As “Presedatel’ Mike” pointed out in his post, President Nursultan Nazarbaev is truly loved but this didn’t prevent making sure he received 91 percent of the vote. Hence, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) statement that “Despite some improvements in the administration of this election in the pre-election period, the presidential election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.” We all know democracy in the CIS states is a sham, but the question, as posed by RFE/RL reporter Daniel Kimmage, is about the long term viability of “managed democracy.” On this, Kimmage writes,
“Political upheaval in
Georgia, Ukraine, and in 2003-05 highlighted the risk of catastrophic failure that comes with “managed democracy,” in which ruling elites accept elections as necessary for legitimacy but do everything in their power to predetermine the outcome. But what happens when the system avoids catastrophic failure? Does it tend toward gradual reform? Or does it degenerate, ensuring ever more splendid victories for the status quo even as it undermines competitiveness and thus retains the risk of an eventual catastrophic failure?” Kyrgyzstan
All important questions and their outcome remains to be seen. Now as before reforms to the Kazakh system lie in Nazarbaev’s will to push them forward. And despite his assurances that reforms will proceed, there is no telling when they, even if remotely genuine, will eventually contradict the personality cult of Nazarbaev himself has created.
Analysis of the short and long term meaning of the Moscow City Duma elections are also coming in. I first want to comment on today’s LA Times editorial. As I’ve noted before, my home paper does some really good reporting on Russia. However, this quality doesn’t extend to the editorial pages. Today’s edition features yet another broken record plea for the Bush Administration to tackle the problem of Russian “democracy.” The problem with the Times’ editorial is not that it argues that Russian democracy is faltering. The problem is how this analysis implies that there was once a democracy to falter. The title “CPR for Russian Democracy” suggests just that. Considering past LA Times’ editorials on this subject, the implied meaning is that before Putin there was democracy, but since his arrival it needs resuscitation. Can they surely be so na?ve to think that the Yeltsin regime was more democratic to even suggest that Russian democracy is “nascent”? By that definition, democracy should be seen as flourishing in say Venezuela, but you won’t find such statements in the Times. So where does this nascent before and authoritarian after come from? From what I can gather from this and past editorials, it comes from the fact that during Yeltsin’s presidency Russia was acting in the interests of the United States and now it has the gall to act in its own interest! After all why would Bush need to put pressure on Putin to change “authoritarian” ways when Bush surely has no problem when his allies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are doing far worse? Yes they are right. The US government should stop referring to Russia as a democracy. Then we can finally stop beating that dead horse and see Russia for what it is and not what we want it to be.
If you want some good analysis of the Moscow elections, I suggest turning to today’s Moscow Times. Two articles stand out. The first is an analysis of what parties received Rodina’s votes. The conclusion is that Rodina’s ban from participating only benefited the Communists, whose nationalistic platform is almost indistinguishable. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Rodina was created by the Kremlin to siphon nationalist votes from the KPRF so it is only logical that with Rodina dropped from the ticket sympathetic voters would swing back. The question is then, if Rodina’s ban came from “above” as many suspect, what did United Russia have to gain from it? If anything it would have been better if Rodina stayed on the ticket. Instead, the KPRF, which is United Russia’s most serious political rival, surged to capture 17 percent of the vote and gain four seats.
The second article, an editorial by Nikolai Petrov, looks at the factors that gave the elections their importance, of which he names four: 1) the first election after the passage of electoral reform, 2) a test where the political parties stand, 3) a preview for the 2008 mayoral elections, and 4) establishing new campaigning models for the 2007 parliamentary elections.
The first was mired by what Petrov and others call “dirty tricks”—voter fraud on various levels, multiple voting, stuffing ballot boxes. This according to Petrov made the post-reform electoral system “far worse.” For the second, Yuri Lukhkov’s and United Russia’s political dominance was confirmed, especially for the former, who will undoubtedly be able to hand pick his successor and well be consulted in choosing a suitable presidential heir.
Perhaps what benefits United Russia in the polls is not the corruption, but the fact that it stands for nothing. Its power is based on the popularity of both Lukhkov and Putin, Russia’s perceived prosperity, and stabilization. As Petrov notes, United Russia, unlike its foes, has no ideology. And for an electorate that grew up in a society where ideology was everything, this might be its most appealing factor.
The ruling party’s anti-ideological or perhaps better, apolitical strategy won’t bode well for Russia’s future. There are serious issues that need addressing in Moscow in particular and Russia in general, and like Kazakhstan much of their mending lies on the backs of a few political personalities. And given the path that Russian politics is taking—between the fanaticism of the far right and left, to the ideology-light of the center—there is little hope that these will be addressed in the near future.Post Views: 422
By Sean — 12 years ago
I haven’t written anything for the last several days because I’ve been preparing for my London-Moscow-Washington DC trip. I leave for
tomorrow to attend the conference “The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1954-64” at organized by the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at University College London. Next I go on to London for a month to work in the libraries and archives. Then I move on to Moscow more of the same. Finally, in mid-November I move on to Yaroslavl to attend the 38th National Convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Washington DC
Blog posts will certainly continue while I’m abroad. I’m hoping that writing in country will add some perspective on the subjects I address. If anyone is in
Moscowor September 19 to November 15, drop me an email. I would love to meet up! YaroslavlPost Views: 358
By Sean — 13 years ago
If there is a phrase that characterizes recent parliamentary and presidential elections in former Soviet Republics it’s “colored revolution.” If I keep harping on the point that that the “revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have sent political shockwaves through the CIS, it’s because the actions of ruling governments continue to use it as an excuse for repression. The latest country this colored specter haunts is Kazakhstan, which holds presidential elections on Sunday. The government has already issued a warning to opposition parties that if they even attempt to erect a tent in a city square, they will be severely dealt with. Then a prominent opposition member, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, was found murdered, um . . . I mean committed “suicide” just before he was to release information about the current president, and election front runner Nursultan Nazarbayev’s corruption. I wonder if the channeling of $84 million in bribes to leading Kazakh officials, with Nazarbayev being one of them, by oil consultant James Giffen in exchange for oil rights to Mobil Oil and Texaco is the big corruption news? At any rate, the “suicide” is rightly being challenged by Nurkadilov’s family. And if that wasn’t enough, apparently relatives of oppositions are being beaten, detained, and in one case kidnapped.
It all makes you wonder what the Kazakh government will do next. They have the proverbial warnings, beatings, assassinations, and paranoia covered. What is an authoritarian state to do next? I know! How about detain and expel some foreign journalists and human rights activists because you suspect that they are trying to export “colored revolution”? This is what Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is reporting.
Thus far the government has detained and looks to expel two Ukrainian journalists who were invited by the youth group Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan to cover the elections. This isn’t the first foreign expulsions. Over the last few weeks the government has expelled hundreds of Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks as well as Chinese and Turks. In addition around 500 people have been detained in Almaty, which is a center for the opposition. The government states that the expulsions were a result of a sweep for illegal immigrants. Others think it’s to prevent oppositionists from hiring immigrants to attend anti-government protests. All I have to say is who the hell knows. I know one thing, even without out all the repression to prevent colored revolution, I doubt there will be one anyway. But I guess we will have to wait until Sunday to be sure of that.Post Views: 373