I’m not sure how I missed this, but Amy Goodman did a segment on Democracy Now! with Stephen Cohen. Topics include the Russian protests, the Communist Party, and the general political mood of the populace. Decent discussion, I thought.
You Might also like
By Sean — 11 years ago
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.
By Sean — 9 years ago
Last Sunday’s municipal elections in 75 of Russia’s 83 regions were like a bad rerun. Everyone played their role well in the latest stage production of managed liberal democracy. United Russia trounced its rivals, most importantly in the coveted Moscow city government where UR took 32 of 35 seats. The country’s real opposition, the Communist Party, got a mere three. Similar results were reproduced across the country. Overall numbers show that the Party of Power averaged around 70% of the votes nationwide, while the Communists hovered around 13%. The rest–Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party were in the single digits. The liberal party meld of Yabloko and Right Cause got nothin’ worth mentioning.
Of course, every oppositional faction–which ranges from those who could participate like the Communists, LDPR, Just Russia, and Yabloko and those who couldn’t like Solidarity–hemmed and hawed about election fraud. No Russian election can occur without it just like no sitcom sounds right without canned laughter. And especially the city Duma elections in Moscow. Did anyone actually think that the United Russia was going to allow the Communists, LDPR, and Yabloko have any say so in Moscow’s $40 billion budget? Democracy–shmocracy. This election, like all of them, was about power and money.
But Russia isn’t alone in this. It seems that no election anywhere can occur without someone committing or pointing to fraud. In an age void of mass social movements where “democracy” holds global hegemony, crying electoral fraud has become the sole “revolutionary” act in a very anti-revolutionary world. Well, I guess that and blowing yourself up. A century ago, politics was a bitter struggle between the have-nots and the haves. Economic crisis brought some nations to their knees; while others simply imploded. Now, “oppositional” politics has been reduced to the presence or absence of ballots.
Committing and claiming electoral fraud, therefore, has become integral to the logic of liberal democracy itself. For those in power, fraud serves as a soft means of reproducing their power. For those in opposition, it provides a safe raison d’etre where “democracy” is a rallying cry that never questions the foundations of the social-economic system it rests upon: capitalism. So for opposition parties in Russia, the political contest is relegated to the superstructure: the accuracy of ballots, equal access to the polls, equal participation in campaigning, etc. The ballot is a political end in and of itself.
How else can one understand the “protest” by Duma deputies from the LDPR, Communists and Just Russia? On Wednesday members from all three factions staged a walkout to protest Sunday’s election results citing the mass falsification of votes in favor of the Party of Power. The deputies demanded a meeting with President Medvedev. When the President phoned LDPR hetman Zhironovsky and KPRF batka Zyuganov with a promise of a future meeting, the “revolutionaries” signaled that they would return to their stations, though Zyuganov says that his KPRFers won’t do anything until they actually meet with him. “The fight goes on,” he declared. Spoken like a true heir of Lenin.
The action is rightly being hailed as nothing more than a stunt staged by the factions or possibly even by the Kremlin itself. United Russia dominates the Duma so thoroughly that it could function just fine without them, making the opposition’s walkout utterly meaningless. The scandal will unlikely move any passions among the populace. One thing you can say about many Russians, they are hardly naive when it comes to the tenor of this political dance. According to a recent Levanda Center poll, 62 percent of Muscovites see elections as “simply imitations of a battle” between political elites. Or, as Anton Orekh writes on Ekho Moskvy, “The mutiny has been staged, just like the elections. First we were shown an imitation of elections and now an imitation of fury with the results of the elections.” It’s like a revision of the Soviet adage: “You pretend to govern and we pretend to support you.”
Perhaps the most interesting comment comes from Eurasianist philosopher extraordinaire Alexander Dugin:
“I think that a high level of depolitiization exists in the country. This means that both the people and those in power agree that serious political questions that would demand including the public are not on the table. Therefore interest in parties is sapped and party politics is transformed into a kind of ceremony, a ritual.
This has an impact on elections, because I think that people simply don’t participate in them. It is clear to everyone in the elections: no intrigue, no interests, and no enemies and no friends. In this sense, I think that interest in elections is totally absent.
Dugin went on to conclude: “Therefore I think that elections [are] very uninteresting, boring, and predictable, and naturally United Russia will win. It’s possible to not hold elections at all. [They should] simply announce that United Russia won.”
We should listen to Dugin. Instead of participating in the ritual of pointing out (yet again) the fraud of Russia’s elections (oh, the horror!), perhaps we should sit back and think of them as if they’ve already “jumped the shark” and hope that the Kremlin at some point cancels this bad sitcom so we can move on to other business.
By Sean — 11 years ago
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.