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“Hello mama. It’s me, Vladimir. I won the elections”

Putin must love it when a plan comes together. With around 85 percent of precincts reporting, United Russia has captured an albeit predictable landslide. The numbers break down as follows:

  • United Russia: 63.2 percent
  • Communist Party: 11.7 percent
  • Liberal Democratic Party: 8.4 percent
  • Just Russia: 8 percent
  • Other Parties: 8.7 percent

The percentage scraps leftover went to parties like Yabloko and Union of Right Forces who didn’t garner the needed 7 percent to make the cut. And while the losers will scream foul, the winner, United Russia, will be able to take their victory as a sign that the population supports their consolidation of power. For Russia’s fledgling liberal parties, the election engenders the old Leninist dictum: What is to be done?

The liberals will certainly try to postpone dealing with this question until after the Presidential Elections in March. But after that it seems that they will have to honestly evaluate their political future. Will they continue as before? Will they make a strategic merge and pool resources and constituencies? Or will they decide that once again liberalism has no future in Russia and for the time being, it might be better to grease the system from the inside. If the latter course is taken, some will certainly abandon political principle and join United Russia. Others will piggyback on Just Russia and hedge their bets that the Kremlin created opposition party has a political future ahead of it.

The Communists of course have the most to lose in all this. In response to the polls, Gensek Gennady Zyuganov claimed that the “direct helpers and sidekicks of United Russia”–the Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia–siphoned off his party’s votes. There may be an element of truth in that. Plus it seems that Zyuganov plans to challenge the election results in court. “This is not a parliament, but a branch of the Kremlin, a department of the government,” he asserted. The Party’s lawyer Vadim Solovyev stated that the “barrage of violations exceeds all acceptable norms.” This of course makes one wonder what electoral corruption looks like when it falls within acceptable norms.

And electoral corruption there was. Despite the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Central Asian rep Kimmo Kiljunen’s insistence that there would be no “ballot rigging.” “I see law and order and I see people going to vote,” he said. Well, in a sense he’s right if you consider the elections he normally monitors in Central Asia. Russia’s elections must looks like shining beacons of the democratic process compared to those.

Still, even if Kiljunen’s special perspective is considered, there can’t be any denial of electoral malfeasance. The press was flooded with incidents over the last week. To make sure everything went as planned, the last day of campaigning was coupled with the police seizure of the entire press run of Arkhangelskii obozrevatel. The Central Electoral Commission claimed that the paper violated electoral law because it published voter surveys in its Friday addition. Election law forbids the publication of polls five days before voting. According to the paper’s editor Oleg Grigorash the seizure was spearheaded by Arkhandelsk mayor Alexander Donskoi “so that all information about the disgraced governor and also materials about the upcoming Duma elections were not revealed to the citizens of Arkhangelsk.” In Kransodarsk, police raided the offices of SPS. SPS activists barricaded the door to save them from the police. Why did the police storm the offices? They never found out. I wonder if these kinds of incidents are what the Moscow Times means when it claims that “regional committees were ordered to resort to any means necessary, including fraud, to ensure that United Russia won 70 to 80 percent of the vote.” If the electoral returns now cited are any indication, once again the regions did not fulfill the plan. They should have all followed Ramzan Kadyrov’s lead. United Russia scored 99 percent of the vote in Chechnya.

But now its all over. And no one was happier than Putin himself. “Thank god the election campaign is over,” he told reporters after voting with wife in tow around 1 pm. Turn out was high. Around 60 percent of the 108 million registered voters cast votes. Two voters, however, took the opportunity to nullify their ballots. Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, amid a crowd of reporters, crossed out their ballots and wrote in “Other Russia.” “I voted against all because the authorities deprive the citizens of Russia their constitutional rights,” Kasparov said after dropping his self-disqualified vote in the ballot box. I’m sure in this instance that the authorities were happy to see Kasparov and Limonov do their job for them. What’s next for the dynamic duo? Another protest, of course, today 3 December, whimsically titled “The Funeral of Elections.”

Of course, Nashi’s exit polls lacked any surprise. 20,000 pro-Kremlin youths calculated that 61.88 percent of vote went for United Russia, almost pegging the official count to the number. With accuracy like that , it’s no wonder then never managed to erect those tents to fight off would-be colored revolutionary scoundrels.

Lastly, I think this Putin joke sums up the whole mess:

Putin calls his mother on the phone and says: “Hello mama. It’s me, Vladimir. I won the elections”. Putin’s mother responds:

“Really? Honestly?”. “Mama,” Putin answers. “Can you please not nag me about that.”

Just think. This election was just a dress rehearsal for March. Then, the gloves will really come off.

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