The results of the mayoral election in Sochi were as expected. United Russia’s candidate Anatoly Pakhomov won. No repeat of the Murmansk mayoral contest allowed. The losers, Solidarity’s Boris Nemtsov and the Communist Party candidate Yuri Dzaganiya, have already charged massive fraud, dirty campaign tricks, and use of a variety “administrative resources” to hoist Pakhomov to victory. Both candidates were systematically barred from local television, their billboards removed, and campaign literature confiscated. Local Sochi tv even smeared poor Nemtsov with a 20 minute film claiming he was a South Korean spy. And what dastardly plot was he hatching for the east Asian nation? Conspiring to move the Olympics to Seoul. As if.
Early voting served as the perfect opportunity for stuffing the box in favor of Pakhmonov. And if that wasn’t enough to tip the balance, then mobile poll buses were dispatched to the Abkhaz border. Last week, Sochi’s electoral committee ruled that citizens of Abkhazia with Russian passports and Sochi residency could cast ballots. As a result, this election is probably the one of first to make a serious effort to enfranchise the homeless.
There isn’t much more to say about a contest which began as a circus and closed with a magic show. Votes were made to disappear and reappear at the behest of the electoral committee’s magicians. Nothing says this more than the enormous gap between exit polls and the election results, via Ezhdnevnyi zhurnal:
The surveys of exist polls gave the following results: Pakhomov, the candidate from United Russia, 46 percent; Nemstov the candidate for Solidarity, 35 percent. In other words, a run off. Yuri Rykov, the head of the city electoral committee, offered entirely different figures to the court of public opinion. Pakhmonov – almost 78 percent, Nemtsov 13.5 percent.
One candidate had to score 50 percent to avoid a run off. United Russia wasn’t going to take a chance even if that meant making electoral fraud even more blatant than usual. After all, it ain’t called “managed democracy” for nothin’.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
(Top down, left to right: Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister; Viktor Zubkov, First Vice-Prime Minister; Igor Shubalov, First Vice-Prime Minister; Igor Sechin, Vice-Prime Minister; Sergei Sobyanin, Vice-Prime Minister; Sergei Ivanov, Vice-Prime Minister; Aleksei Kurdrin, Vice-Prime Minister; Aleksandr Zhukov, Vice-Prime Minister; Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister; Rashid Nuraliev, Minister of Internal Affairs; Aleksei Kudrin, MInister of Finance; Sergei Shoigy, Minister of Public Safety; Dmitri Kozak, Minister of Regional Development; Tatiana Golkova, Minister of Health and Social Development; Elvira Nabiullina, Minister of Economic Development; Anatolii Serdiukov, Minister of Defense; Igor Shchegolev, Minister of Communications; Andrei Fursenko, Minister of Education; Iurii Trutnev, Minister of Natural Resources; Aleksei Gordeev, Minister of Agriculture; Sergei Shmatko, Minister of Energy; Viktor Khistenko, Minister of Industry, Vitalii Mutko, Minister of Sport; Aleksandr Avdeev, Minister of Culture; Igor Levitin, Minister of Transportation; and Aleksandr Konovalov, Minister of Justice.)
Things to note are:
Putin basically brought his tail from the Kremlin into the White House. The top faces should be familiar to anyone paying attention. The number of Vice Prime Ministers was raised from five to seven. Shubalov’s promotion and Kurdin’s double role as Finance Minister and Vice-Premier is being viewed as a liberal bulwark to hawkish Sechin and Ivanov. Dmitri Babich notes that all seven men owe their careers to Putin and four of them (Ivanov, Sechin, Zubkov and Shuvalov) are his personal friends.
Two big figures in the “siloviki war” Vikor Cherkesov and Nikolai Patrushev have been removed from their respective positions as the head of the Federal Drug Control Service and the FSB. The former will now head the federal agency for buying military hardware. The latter will become the head of Medvedev’s Security Council.
The Moscow Times sees this shuffle as an overall blow to the siloviki. So does Yevgenia Albats, who told the Indepdenent‘s Shaun Walker that “The appointments suggest that the warriors have lost and the traders have won.”
Despite the fact that the government looks stable, Jonas Bernstein evaluates the expectation that the Medvedev-Putin tandem will at some point collapse.
The New York Times’ C. J. Chivers predictably sees the appointments as yet another move to “retain a grip on power and the direction of policy in Russia.” Like the Moscow Times he makes much of the fact that Putin sat in the same seat as he did as President, while Medvedev sat in a seat “viewers have come to regard as one for subordinates.” Reuters is also making much of the chair. Lyndon over at Scraps of Moscow simply calls the chair thing “stability.”
Equally predictable, RFE/RL sees the cabinet with so many familiar faces as the “preservation of power.” Wasn’t that the point all along?
Not all are winners though. Sergei Ivanov, who was once a presidential hopeful was demoted from a First Vice Primer to a simple Vice Premier. Communications Minister Leonid Reiman and Justice Minister Vladimir Ustinov have to hit the pavement and find new jobs. I doubt the revolving door between the Russian government and Russian corporations will make job hunting difficult.
Medvedev has appointed former Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin to be his chief of staff. He also promoted Head Putin ideologist Vladislav Surkov to first deputy chief of staff and elevated another Putinite, Alexei Gromov, to be deputy chief of staff.
Few new faces were brought into the Putin’s government or Medvedev’s administration. For the most part things look like they did before. Economic liberals are balanced with security minded conservatives.
I don’t imagine any major conflicts, or at least no more than usual among the elite. The board of Kremlin Inc. is continuing with business as usual. Let the plundering resume!Post Views: 140
By Sean — 9 years ago
The New Year has brought little economic cheer to Russia. The estimated number of unemployed has hit 6 million. Industrial output has fallen by 10.3 percent. Car imports in the Far East have dropped by 95 percent in response to new tariffs. The ruble has slid to a new low costing Russia $200 billion or one third of its reserves (though the Russian government has announced that it will stop its further depreciation).
No doubt, Russia is feeling the economic pain but it isn’t alone. The US lost 71,000 jobs yesterday. Unemployment here in Golden State has hit 9.3 percent. Iceland’s government has become the first casualty of the economic crisis to riotous, window smashing, rock throwing protesters. Mass protests have occurred in Greece, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania. This is just the beginning warns Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF. Political tensions in Europe “may worsen in the coming months,” he said adding “The situation is really, really serious.” This is especially the case in ex-communist countries where “there’s a long history of unfulfilled promises and frustration with the political elites going back to the communist era.”
The world’s economic elite are assembling in Davos in record numbers to coordinate a way to sway the market’s raucous invisible hand. But their mood is dim. “This may be the first Davos where capitalism is widely viewed as a failure, rather than something to be admired,” says one World Economic Forum veteran. You know things are bad when the economic elite begins doubting their faith.
Yet while Russia’s statistical economic performance goes with the rest of the world, prompting some to speculate that it’s about to tear itself apart at the seams, pollsters, sociologists, and psychologists don’t see much evidence for a social explosion despite Russians’ increasingly concerns about inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. People seem to be weathering the storm and hoping for the best, or increasingly finding solace to their economic woes in psychotherapy and, of course, vodka. According to Tatiana Dmitrieva, the director of the Serbiskii State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry, since the financial crisis requests for psychologists have grown by 10 percent and psychotherapy by 20 percent. So much so that the Center has opened a hotline for people in psychological distress. Those who are of lesser means and can’t afford or aren’t inclined toward a human therapist tend to turn to its less expensive bottled form. Nevertheless, Dmitrieva sees something positive in people’s turn to psychotherapy. It is a sign that “rational responses prevail.”
Indeed as the rise in those seeking therapy suggests, discontent exists, but says Valerii Fedorov from the Russian polling agency VTsIOM, “it has yet to find itself a target.” As Kommersant explains,
The ratings for the President and government have not fallen. Therefore protest carries a local character, and conflicts arise not out of discontent with those in power as a whole, but with whatever concrete matter that has taken place, in particular the car owners in the Far East. In fact, about the government’s anti-crisis measures, asserts the VTsIOM’s direction, “people have poor information, and don’t know if there is a general plan to combat the crisis.” Sociologists cannot forecast whether parties, first and foremost the opposition, can strengthen their influence in society in the atmosphere of the crisis.
Perhaps the lack of political outcry has a psychological component. One reason why the economic crisis has yet to produce political instability, say psychologists, is because “the beginning of the crisis was preceded by economic and social stability that has had a beneficial affect on the psychological condition of the population.” In this sense, according to Aleksandr Asmolov from the Department of Psychology at MGU, the “Default of 1998 cannot be compared to the present crisis. Now many breathe freely, believe in stability, and have began a long term planning.” People sense they have more of a social and economic cushion than they did ten years ago. Moreover, the psychological state of the citizenry also depends on the actions of those in power. If people perceive that the state has a clear strategy for improving the economy, “people will cheer up” and “if people feel that they’ve been disregarded then further neurosis is inevitable.” Now whether increased neuroses will lead to political discontent or a further delving into the psychological musings of the self remains to be seen.
Post Views: 184
By Sean — 8 years ago
I think I finally understand why the Kremlin was so hell bent on securing Yuri Luzhkov’s continued domination over Moscow politics: the weather. Yuri Mikhailovich can control the weather. Or so he promises. According to Time,
For just a few million dollars, the mayor’s office will hire the Russian Air Force to spray a fine chemical mist over the clouds before they reach the capital, forcing them to dump their snow outside the city. Authorities say this will be a boon for Moscow, which is typically covered with a blanket of snow from November to March. Road crews won’t need to constantly clear the streets, and traffic — and quality of life — will undoubtedly improve.
This won’t be Luzhkov’s first foray into the Promethean. In 2002, Moscow’s Grand Prince pushed a project to reverse the flow of the Ob River to irrigate Central Asia. Needless to say, the people of Central Asia are still parched. Luzhkov is also known for shelling out $2-3 million to the Russian Air Force to seed the clouds around Victory Day and City Day. With a city budget of $40 billion, $2-3 million is minuscule price to pay for a sunny day. “Well, we should do the same with the snow!” Time quotes Luzhkov from a speech he gave to farmers in September. “Then outside Moscow there will be more moisture, a bigger harvest, while for us it won’t snow as much. It will make financial sense.” The total cost to keep the snow at bay all winter is estimated to be $6 million, half of what the capital shells out to clear the streets.
While Time calls Luzhkov’s attempt at playing weather warlock “his zaniest plan to date,” you can’t fault the boyar too much. He just the next episode in a much zanier history. Weather manipulation research began in the Soviet Union in the 1930s under Stalin’s order and continues up to the present. Putin used weather control in 2003 for the St. Petersburg 300th Anniversary celebrations. In September, China deployed 18 planes to “spray cloud dispersal chemicals” to prevent bad weather during its recent 60th Anniversary celebrations.
Creating clear holiday skies is not its only application. According to James R. Fleming, during the Cold War both the US and Soviet Union saw weather manipulation as a potential weapon.
Howard T. Orville, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s weather adviser, published an influential 1954 article in Collier’s that included a variety of scenarios for using weather as a weapon of warfare. Planes would drop hundreds of balloons containing seeding crystals into the jet stream. Downstream, when the fuses on the balloons exploded, the crystals would fall into the clouds, initiating rain and miring enemy operations. The Army Ordnance Corps was investigating another technique: loading silver iodide and carbon dioxide into 50-caliber tracer bullets that pilots could fire into clouds. A more insidious technique would strike at an adversary’s food supply by seeding clouds to rob them of moisture before they reached enemy agricultural areas. Speculative and wildly optimistic ideas such as these from official sources, together with threats that the Soviets were aggressively pursuing weather control, triggered what Newsweek called “a weather race with the Russians,” and helped fuel the rapid expansion of meteorological research in all areas, including the creation of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which was established in 1960.
The American war machine even implemented “weather warfare” during the Vietnam War. Between 1967 and 1972, the American military shelled out $3.6 million a year to have planes fly more “2,600 cloud seeding sorties” to “reduce the trafficability” on portions of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as part of covert operations “POPEYE” and “Intermediary-Compatriot.”
In present day Russia, it seems weather manipulation is mostly for adding sunny and clear skies to their “palaces on Monday.” Not everyone is keen on the idea, though. Russian environmentalists are up in arms over the idea of “banning” snow from Moscow. They fear that such a drastic alteration of Moscow weather patterns will have long term disastrous effects. The plan still has to pass through Moscow ecology department and discussed with suburban residents since the snow will be dumped on them. However, given the mayor’s political weight, there is little doubt the plan will pass. Man’s destined domination over nature will not be denied.Post Views: 198