On its website, the radio station Ekho Moskvy features a letter from Mikhail Khodorkovsky on the upcoming Duma elections. Khodorkovsky’s letter was in response to one sent to him from a ZheZhe user newreft. A translation of Khodorkovsky’s response follows.
Thank you for the letter. I understand and share your opinion in regard to the elections. They (the elections) will obviously be a predictable victory for ER [United Russia]. Moreover, ER with its satellites will gain a constitutional majority in the Duma, but the chances are that the liberal parties will not completely collapse.
Such is the present political reality.
Does this mean that isn’t necessary to vote at all?
I know Kasyanov in particular holds such an opinion but I cannot agree with him on this question.
The bureaucracy, and today it is exactly our main opponent, feels fine in social apathy. For it this is a confirmation of its monopolistic right to rule the country according to its own discretion. That is to say that the readiness of the citizen to give his vote, his fate to a far off bureaucrat (chinovnik) testifies in their eyes to the utter uselessness of taking the people’s opinion into consideration.
That is, who votes “with their feet”, still to a large degree is who votes for ER, and encourages the bureaucratic class toward despotism and contempt for the “herd.”
Therefore it is imperative that you vote not for those who evoke contempt, it’s better to vote for any of the small parties. This will be Your own clear and personal gesture: I am a citizen, I have the right to vote and will, I am not a slave and I am not cattle.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
The number of Russians requesting absentee ballots has increased fourfold in the last four years, reports Lenta.ru. The Interregional Union of Voters, a Russian outfit that seeks to protect voting rights, says that as of 24 November 99,711 people have requested absentee ballots, up from 26,026 in 2003. This should be good news for United Russia. Because as one unnamed teacher from St. Petersburg told the Associated Press, her school instructed the staff to get absentee ballots and go and submit their ballots together. “They didn’t tell us necessarily to vote for United Russia, but you can read between the lines,” she said. The teacher’s story is apparently one of many accounts of employers instructing their employees when, where, and in some cases who to vote for. It seems like United Russia has learned the imaginative things one can do with absentee ballots. Especially if you consider whether they followed with earnest the critical role absentee ballots played in deciding the American Presidential Election in 2000. America has always wanted to be a teacher of democracy to Russia. Now it will get its chance.
That’s not the United Russia party line, however. Putin assures all Russians that Sunday’s elections will be “maximally transparent and open” without “organizational shortcomings and malfunctions.” So confident is the Party of Power that election commish Vladimir Churov dismissed complaints that regional governors are planning on stuff ballot boxes and other acts of electoral malfeasance. “Don’t believe everything that you read,” he said in English just in case we would miss it. And why worry oneself with electoral fraud when Churov is working diligently to bring the narod closer to the democratic process. Forget the slow motion of cable TV, the internet, and other domestic news outlets. The Russian voter has instant access to poll results just by dialing 5503 on their mobile and a SMS with the latest polling stats will appear! Virtual politics has now become the norm rather than the exception.
The election’s virtuality doesn’t mean that power has no punch. Today we learn that Garry Kasparov has “disappeared.” Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov and chess king and Public Chamber member Anatoly Karpov were refused access to Kasparov. Police even refused Kasparov’s mother from delivering a package of pirozhki and water. In response, supporters (including SPS candidate Boris Nemtsov) quickly set up a 24-hour picket calling for his release. Shortly thereafter the picket became a smörgåsbord of the “opposition” and their detractors. Nashi commissar Sergei Kamyshev showed up with a few Nashi thugs to pester Nemtsov as he spoke. Then SPS leader Nikita Belykh made an appearance to show support to the detained chess champion. And let us not forget to mention how Yabloko Youth leader Ilya Yashin got harangued by individuals in the crowd demanding that he pay them the 450 rubles owed to them for coming to the Dissenter’s March. He denied the requests as he stood alone with sign reading “Free Kasparov” Police demanded a permit for his picket of one. When he didn’t produce one, they dragged him on to an awaiting bus. If I were the police, I don’t think I could release Kasparov fast enough. They must have come to this conclusion since they plan to release him as planned and drive him straight home to avoid any further fiascoes.
Still the “opposition” presses on, albeit feebly. SPS is now complaining that the Kremlin has broken its promise to give SPS seats if they refrained from criticizing Putin. “At first, Kremlin spin doctors said the party would be allowed into the Duma if it refrained from criticism,” an unnamed SPS deputy told the Moscow Times. “But then they changed their minds and decided not to keep their promise. The party is angry, and now the only chance it has to get into the parliament is to gather the protest vote.” The Communists and Yabloko both claim to have made similar deals with the Kremlin. What!? And now were are expected to feel sorry for them? If anything their whining about broken political promises should be a signal to their supporters that they are nothing but slimy political opportunists. All’s fair in love, war, and politics, boys. What a bunch of losers.
The NGO Golos is claiming that it’s been forced them to shut down their activities due to a politically motivated criminal investigation in Samara. What is the motive for police snooping in their office? That’s right. You guessed it. Installing unlicensed software on their computers! “The goal of the authorities is to conduct the elections so quietly that you can’t hear a mosquito,” Golos head Lyudmila Kuzmina told the Moscow Times. “We remain the only troublesome mosquito buzzing in the silence.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kuzmina’s claims “don’t correspond with reality.” Yeah, right.
But the big, big question is what Putin will say in his recorded address tonight. Will he resign? That’s what some think. Resignation would allow Putin to unitize a loophole in the law to run for President in March. The loophole, explains RFE/RL, is found in Article 3, Section 5 of the election law. It states that “a citizen who holds the office of president of the Russian Federation for a second consecutive term on the day of the official publication of the date of the election cannot be elected president.” If Putin resigns before the date of the Presidential election is published in Rossiiskaya gazeta, he can technically and legally run for office again. Oh, damn! It was published today. So much for that theory.
So what is Putin expected to say? United Russia denies that he will either resign or announce that he will join the party. If insiders are telling the truth, the speech looks to be nothing more than a campaign commercial for United Russia. Putin simply plans on explaining why he supports them. United Russia has paid for its airing at noon on Channel One, but will sure reap the benefits when its played and replayed on the news. The cost of a prime-time ad on the station costs about 2.5 million rubles ($103,000). The costs of a midday broadcast wasn’t disclosed. Whatever the price, its certain loop on the news will ensure that United Russia will get more bang for its buck.
In the meantime, here’s what Putin has to say to the world:
“I would like to note straight away that our political course is clearly defined and solid. We are following a path of democratic development. And the priority here remains to ensure and exercise human rights and freedoms, to encourage of the potential of each individual.”
Boy, that really sounds nice.Post Views: 170
By Sean — 6 years ago
Just like that Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is gone after a 24 hour imbroglio that put him tet-a-tet with outgoing President and soon to be Prime Minister Medvedev. During a shocking announcement in Washington on Saturday, Kudrin responded to Putin’s return to the Presidency with “I do not see myself in a new government. The point is not that nobody has offered me the job; I think that the disagreements I have will not allow me to join this government.” That is the government soon to be headed by Medvedev. The differences between the two power players are well known, particularly around issues of budget austerity, which Kudrin is a staunch advocate of.
Nevertheless, Kudrin was expected to continue on as Finance Minister well on into 2012. Just two weeks ago said he was prepared to stay on. Apparently, Saturday’s big announcement blindsided him. Some are suggesting that Kudrin’s gunning for the Premiership himself, and being released as Finance Minister allows him to gun harder.
All that said, what is most surprising about all this is its publicity. Russian elite political tussles are rarely aired in open. I believe it is for this reason that Kudrin had to go. He basically violated Russian political ethics dating back at least a century.
Of which, he made three mistakes:
1) He undermined Medvedev’s authority precisely at a time when it is so shaky.
2) He broke “democratic centralism” by making public statements that diverged from agreed policy.
3) He made these statements outside of Russia, and worse, from the United States.
And this is why, Medvedev decided to undress Kudrin for all eyes to see. Medvedev’s comments weren’t for just for him. They were for everyone in the government.
Here’s a transcript of the undressing:
I want to say a few words about discipline in the Russian government. Everyone knows that we entered into an electoral campaign, that this is difficult test for the governmental system and for individual people. I believe that this affects the nerves. Apparently connected to this is a whole host of statements that have reverberated recently in our country from abroad, specifically from the United States. We generally have a entire class of citizens who make departing declarations from the other side of the ocean. There’s Alexei Kudrin, who is present here, announcing the happy news that he doesn’t plan to work in the new government and has serious differences with the active President, in particular over questions of expenditures, including military expenditures. In this context, I would like to note several things. First, there is no new government whatsoever, and no one has made any kind of invitations to anyone. But there is an old government which I formed as President and is accountable to me and will proceed within the framework of my constitutional authority. This government will carryout the course of the President and under all key decisions made under government’s leadership, including, of course, those under the Minister of Finance on issues of budgetary finance policy and generally to widest class of problems, including, of course, those having to do with expenditure on armaments.
I understand that Alexei Leonidovich has previously had the possibility to state his position and has accepted his decision on his political future. To the purpose of joining with the Right Forces, as they call it. But Alexei Leonidovich apparently refused this for some reason. Nevertheless, I would like to say that a statement like this, made in the US, appears to be offensive and cannot be excused. Second, no one can abrogate the discipline and subordination to the government. If, Alexei Leonidovich, you don’t agree with the President’s course, and the government is taking the President’s course, then you have only one option–submit your resignation. Therefore I turn directly to you here with such a suggestion–if you think that you have another viewpoint on the economic order of the day from the President, that is from me, you can write a corresponding letter of resignation. Naturally you can answer directly here and now. Would you write such a letter?
Dmitry Antolevich, I have real disagreements with you, but I have to talk with the Prime Minister before I arrive at a decision to your suggestion.
You know that you can consult with anyone you want including the Prime Minister. But I am President at the moment and I make such decisions myself.
Now you have offered me to make the decision for me, I can decide for myself . . .
I repeat again — You need to make up your mind very quickly and give me an answer today.
Or you proceed that a disagreement, as you call it, doesn’t exist and then it’s necessary for you to explain your comments. If these disagreements exist, about which you recently spoken about, I don’t see any other conclusion, although to me, of course, it would be unpleasant to do what I have said.
Lastly, I would like to say a few words about this context. If there is anyone who doubts the course of the President or the government, or if there is anyone who has their own plans, you have the right to give me your resignation. But if it must be done out in the open, I will need to put an end to any irresponsible chatter. I will accept all necessary decisions up until 7 May of next year. I hope everything is understood?Post Views: 203
By Sean — 1 year ago
Guest: Marc Bennetts on I’m Going to Ruin Their Lives: Inside Putin’s War on Russia’s Opposition.