Vladimir Putin threw a curve ball into the “who will be the next Russian President” guessing game. Kommersant reports that he told reports at the G8 Summit that his successor should be “a decent and honest person with a high level of professional qualities and work experience who has proven himself well and positively either in a region or at the federal level,” adding that that person might be “some governor.” Putin’s comments prompted the business daily to run an article titled “75 Successors to Many.”
I love how any illusion that the Russian Presidential election will be democratic is completely thrown out the window. Yes the election will resemble democracy in the sense that people will vote and that the majority of people might honestly vote for who Putin picks. Putin has the credibility and any formally named successor will immediately be the front runner. But no one is under the illusion that the next President will be handpicked.
But now, Kommersant wonders, who will that be? Thankfully in addition to Putin’s, they’ve provided a few criteria:
1. He will be Russian. Putin successor will have an -nin or an -ov at the end of his name. If he doesn’t at least sound and look Russian, he’s probably out.
2. Veteran governors are out. No one who came to power under Yeltsin. Experience doesn’t leave much room for cultivation and exercising influence. Plus their loyalties might lie elsewhere.
3. If a novik is the man, then he must be loyal to the president and his circle. And while all current governors show their loyalty to Putin regardless of political affiliation, its a good bet that the choice will most likely come from United Russia.
When all the above criteria are applied, Kommersant is left with 10 possible governors plus three recent governors who now have other jobs (Vladimir Yakovlev, former governor of St. Petersburg, now works in the Ministry of Regional Development; former governor of Yury Trutnev, who became minister of natural resources; and Sergey Sobyanin, former governor of and now chief of the presidential executive staff.).
Here is Kommersant‘s short list (minus the above three):
Alexander Tkachev (
Valentine Matvienko (St. Petersburg)
Alexander Khloponin ( )
Dmitry Zelenin ( )
Vyacheslav Shtyrov (Sakha Yakutia)
Sergey Morozov ( )
Viktor Maslov ( )
Vladimir Kulakov ( )
Nikolay Denin ( )
Nikolay Shaklein ( ))
Putin is just screwing us. It’s probably going to be Sergei Ivanov anyway.
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Four hours and forty minutes. Two hours and six minutes of which were broadcast live on Russian TV. One thousand three hundred and sixty-four journalists. Over 100 questions from fifty-two reporters. Those are some heady stats. When the vozhd’ speaks, the media listens.
Putin appeared loose in his final showcase. Reuters described his performance as “mixed flirtatious banter with metaphors about snot and showed a gift for sarcastic brush-offs worthy of a stand-up comedian.” The snot references were to questions about his alleged hidden wealth and the hard man hours he put in as Prez. To the former he said that reports about his wealth were “rubbish . . . excavated from someone’s nose and then spread on those bits of paper”. To the latter, he said “Heads of state have no right to whine, or drool for any reason… If they are going to slobber and blow snot and say things are bad, bad, then that’s how it will be.”
One of my favorites was his response to Hillary Clinton saying he had no soul. “A state official must at least have brains,” he stuck back. Given how her Presidential bid is going, Putin might be on to something. He even gave a shout out to his “American partner” George W. Bush. “You have to make decisions that nobody else is in a position to make. They are not always pleasant decisions. It isn’t easy. Is it easy for George Bush? This is where the buck stops.” To questions asking him to guarantee the ruble’s stability he said, “What do you want? Do you want me to eat soil from a flower pot? Take a blood oath?” Jesus people, just because the man’s visage is hung all over Russia, doesn’t mean he’s God. Naive monarchism is so 19th century.
Indeed, Putin was not without humor or wit. Kommersant was even kind enough to pick out some of the his sure to be memorable aphorisms. Here’s the list.
“All these eight years I worked like a slave in a galley from morning to night.” (On his work as President)
“I don’t think that we need to sprinkle ashes on our heads and beat ourselves with chains to prove that everything is fine with us.” (On relations with Poland).
“Let them teach their own wives how to cook shchi!” (On international election monitors on the Russian presidential elections.)
“As we said during Soviet times: If you want to “bury” a person, you appoint him to agricultural work.” (On Dmitri Medvedev’s resolve and national projects)
“Don’t whine and blubber about every subject” (On the character of a president.)
“It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” (“Не говори гоп, пока не перепрыгнешь”) (On being named to the post of Prime Minister)
“What can a person without a visa say about Tchaikovsky’s music?” (On relations between Russia and the West)
“Everybody must hoe their area like Saint Francis, boom, boom, everyday.” (On the activities of ministers)
And if anyone can translate and explain the following to me, I’d appreciate it: “Как у нас в некоторых местах говорили, “шило в стенку и на боковую залечь”” (о возможности покинуть политику).
Putin wasn’t all just shits and giggles. He seemed annoyed at the repeated “third term” questions. Just take a look at the photo above. He looks like he’s reaching to rip someone’s heart from their chest.Post Views: 158
T-minus five days and counting. Here’s today’s roundup. The Christian Science Monitor, which I heard was once known for its objectivity, has apparently dumped it. In an editorial titled “Putin’s Potemkin Election,” CSM states that the Duma elections signal the end of Russia’s multi-party system. “In reality Russia is becoming a one-party state. One need only examine the coming parliamentary elections to see how this tragedy is happening.” Only two parties will remain in the Duma–United Russia and the Communists. Changes to the electoral law has made it “harder to run for elections.” In 2004, the law was changed to say that a political party must have a membership of 50,000 (up from 10,000) to register and 200,000 signatures to be on the ballot. This and other changes are what makes the Duma election “Potemkin.”
This is really funny, especially when you consider electoral law in California. For a new political party to get registered in the Golden State, it must have 88,991 people (or one percent of the state electorate) complete “an affidavit of registration, on which they have written in the proposed party name as the party they affiliate with.” To get on the California ballot, a party must have 889,991 signatures (or ten percent of the state electorate) from California alone. Strangely, I don’t recall any articles about California elections being referred to as “Potemkin.”
Such pontificating and hypocrisy are expected from the West. In addition to noting the obvious facade of the Duma elections, Western governments are continuing to line up to condemn the arrests of participants in anti-Putin protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. To think President Bush had to nerve to throw his two cents in. “I am deeply concerned about the detention of numerous human rights activists and political leaders who participated in peaceful rallies in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Nazran this weekend,” he said. “I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them.” You gotta be kidding me. I don’t recall any statement when the NYPD locked up 1000 people protesting the RNC Convention in 2004 in what became known as “Guantanamo on the Hudson.”
It should come as no surprise that Moscow’s Meshchansky Court upheld Kasparov’s arrest.
Sure it’s easy to point to the hypocrisy. But I have one more. Or really it’s a request. Can anyone explain to me what Anne Applebaum’s point is in her column on Slate called “The New Dissidents“? Among other things like comparing Other Russia to Soviet dissidents of yore, she writes, “Odder still is the fact that we hear anything about [Other Russia] at all.” What!? When is the last time she’s done a Google News or Yandex News search? Apparently she’s the only one that finds the voluminous amount of reporting in English and Russian on Kasparov et al. as “odd” I mean Kasparov is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal of all things.
The Russian Duma elections will not be fair or perfect by any standards. Sure Putin’s United Russia is popular and would win even if they had one hand behind their back. Even so, that doesn’t mean that in some nefarious ballot stuffing won’t take place in Russia’s nether regions. The election might be a hark back to the days of Stakhanovism when competitions between factories pushed productivity quotas beyond capacity. I’m sure no regional governor is going to let the other eclipse his own sycophantic pandering to the center. No one seems to deny this. A senior election official quoted in the Moscow Times says that “have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections on Sunday — even if they have to falsify the results.” How would this be done? The best way according to this unnamed official is to change the polling station’s protocol, that is the record of how many people vote and how many votes go to a party. “During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results,” he told the Times. “We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on.” If this is true, I sure hope that whatever elections monitors arrive, they aren’t as stupid as the last ones.
I assume this how election monitors from Nashi will spend their time. According to Lentna.ru, Nashi, along with VTsIOM and FOM, will be conducting exit polls. Exit poll monitoring will be one of the ways “Our Elections,” a coalition of Nashi, Young Guard, and Young Russia, will ensure that the ballots don’t get hijacked by colored revolutionary wreckers and saboteurs–all of which they label one kind of fascist or another. One wonders if they will do something like posing as “vampires” of votes, rather than vampires of blood like they did in an action to get Muscovites to donate blood in September. I can see it now. Nashisty running around saying “I’ve cum to suck yur votes!”
The Kremlin appears ready to fight election fraud of its own. Election Commissioner Vladimir Churov called upon voters to “not subvert” the elections by drawing “smiley faces, horns, or any other drawings” on or next to parties on ballots. Voters are also urged to not make the ballot an editorial. So, he warned, no one is to write “this party is the worst of all” next to the party of their choosing. Also, election workers are to avoid engaging in “boisterous discussions” with voters who share different opinion. Man, Churov is taking all the fun out of voting!
And by far the best election story of the day comes from Dagestan. There, Nukh Nukhov, a candidate for SPS, has been charged with “hooliganism,” “causing bodily harm,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” According to Lenta.ru, the story began way back in March this year. On 11 March, during the regional Dagestani elections, a “skirmish” broke out between Nukhov, who was then standing for reelection, and four of his people with Mohammed Aliev, who is the head of Dakhadaevksii district and United Russia, and his brothers. When the smoke cleared two of Nukhov men were killed and two, including Nukhov, were wounded. Aliev and his men fled the scene but a subsequent investigation landed his brothers in jail. Nukhov is said to have “fled with help of his contacts with security organs.”
Nukhov has been in hiding all this time. Or so says the Dagestani prosecutor. But Nukhov dutifully showed up to the court to answer for his behavior. There was even a 200 person strong protest calling for his immediate release. OMON quickly showed up and cordoned off the square.
The Nukhov-Aliev brawl makes me wonder. How much of this election is really about politics and ideology? Perhaps, especially in the localities, it is about clans from the top of the power vertical to the bottom securing their continued right to plunder. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to dump all the finger wagging about “democracy” and see Russian politics for what it is, rather than what we want it to be.Post Views: 172
“Putin is stability!”, “Putin is peace in Chechnya!”, “Putin is the Olympics!”, “Putin is an eagle!”, and “Putin, we are with you!” These are some of the slogans 10,000 Nashi activists from over 20 regions shouted as they paraded down Moscow’s Taras Shevchenko Embankment on Sunday to celebrate Putin’s 55th birthday. The procession ended at a stage where Vasilii Yakemenko, Nashi leader and new appointee to head the Kremlin’s Youth Commission, rallied the crowd to the glories of Putinism with techno remixes of Soviet pop hits blaring in the background.
“I want to say that I remember the 1990s, when bandits ruled the streets, the country’s budget was approved by Americans at the International Monetary Fund and Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky declared war in Chechnya.” Yakemenko told the crowd giving his own version of history. “And I want to say that we cannot allow that to be repeated and the election f the national leader depends on us!” He then praised Putin’s heading United Russia’s federal electoral lists in the upcoming Duma elections. “Putin must take no some 30 percent or even 50 percent of votes. He must win decisively and unconditionally. And we the Nashi movement will help him in this!” Putin lives. Putin will always live.
As if unquestionable adulation of everything Putin wasn’t enough, later that day a representative from Nashi, Kristina Potupchik, presented Putin with a “peace blanket” decorated with symbols of many of Russia’s ethnic cultures. “Nashi wants this blanket to be a symbol of the multinational and grand Russia,” she explained. To make sure Putin wasn’t just covered in the material world, Nashi made sure he was nice and snug in the spiritual one and asked all of Russia’s churches to pray for Putin’s health.
Nashi’s presents to Putin made me think about other presents to Russian leaders over the decades. Be sure, whatever Putin got for his 55th pales in comparison to what Stalin was to receive from the Moscow Babaiev Confectionery Factory for his 60th birthday in 1939: A huge chocolate bust of himself.
As a teenager, the writer Valerii Agranovskii, witnessed the chocolate Stalin with his own eyes, and eventually lips, while on an excursion of the factory with his orphanage. Here is his account of the cocoa wonder:
[I]n a small hall in front of the director’s office where a huge bust of Stalin, made of chocolate, was exhibited. It was perhaps ordered by someone, but, most likely, made by the factory as a gift to Stalin for his sixtieth birthday.
I don’t know who touched the pedestal where the bust was seated. The fact remains that Stalin’s bust tottered and fell down, breaking into many large and small pieces. Our teachers were stunned. And the director, when he jumped out of his office and saw what had happened to the chocolate Leader of All the Progressive Humanity, went completely white, then looked at us with suddenly empty eyes, then looked behind him for some reason, and uttered almost without any voice and with only half of his mouth open (I don’t remember, left or right): ‘Eat it!’
We heard his command, and not just heard it but correctly understood it – and jumped… on the Best Friend and the Teacher of All Soviet Children.
The first thing that struck me (and, maybe others as well, but we did not share these thoughts) was that Stalin turned out to be empty inside… I got a huge ear of Joseph Vissarionovich, of the size of my two feet at that time…On another occasion we would have luxuriated on this ear for the whole day… but now we finished Stalin quickly… Nothing was left of Stalin, not a single crumb: the director, we think, even forbade sweeping the floor – which would be an extra blasphemy… – not that there was anything left to sweep; it was Stalin, after all.
Now that’s one chocolaty holy communion! I’d like to see those Nashi kids try and top that.
The chocolate Stalin was not the last, nor of course, the strangest gift the Man of Steel received from worshipers. In 1942, a group of Native American tribes presented the Soviet ambassador to the United States a full feathered head dress for the dictator to commemorate his “election as the honorary chief of all Indian tribes.” I remember seeing the head dress in the Museum of the Revolution in 2001. I couldn’t help picturing Stalin convening Politburo meetings wearing the damn thing.
Gifts to Stalin were so numerous for his 70th birthday that a special exhibition of the gifts was opened at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit remained open until Stalin’s death in 1953.
Now that Putin appears to be sticking around for a while longer, one can’t help wonder: Is there a chocolate visage in his future?
Update: For more on Nashi, Putin’s B-day, and a translation of the Kommersant article on it, check out Lyndon’s post over at his Scraps of Moscow.Post Views: 225