Alexey Kovalev is a journalist living and working in Russia. He was a senior editor at RIA Novosti, Russia’s largest state news agency, and edited inosmi.ru, a website that translates news articles from foreign publications into Russian. He is the founder and editor of noodleremover.news, a Russian-language fact-checking and anti-propaganda website. He writes a bimonthly column for the Moscow Times on the maneuverings of the Russian media.
Carson Robinson, “I’m No Communist,” 1952.
You Might also like
By Sean — 10 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.Post Views: 193
By Sean — 9 years ago
Nato declares that relations with Russia can’t go on “business as usual.” Washington keeps demanding that the Russians leave Georgia “now.” Russia rethinks its cooperation with NATO. It is even unmasking a few Georgian spies for good measure. All of this coincides with three Cold War anniversaries: Russia’s 1998 financial default, the coup against Gorbachev, and Prague Spring. The Cold War is suddenly back in vogue. The glory days of the past are back!
“Cold War II,” as it’s being called, already has critics’ panties in a bunch as to what to do about Russia. Containment? Nato enlargement? Missle “defense” against Russia, err, Iran in Eastern Europe? The desperation has resulted in some grasping for some real straws. A good example, is Chrystia Freeland’s comment, “The oligarchs could be Russia’s best bet,” in today’s Financial Times. She writes,
Russian capitalism – and, more crucially, Russian capitalists – may be our best bet if we hope to limit Russia’s malign actions abroad. Crazy though it may sound to contemplate right now, they could even be critical to Russia’s eventual return to a more democratic path.
Well, it sounds crazy because it is. The incorrect assumption Freeland makes is that she sees a division between Russia’s “oligarchs” (the fact that she doesn’t name a single one proves that she might not have a clue) and the Russian state. One wonders which “oligarchs” does she mean. Could it be Deputy Prime Minister and Rosneft magnate Igor Sechin? Or Deputy Prime Minister and Gazprom chairman Viktor Zubkov? Millhouse LLC owner and former Chukota governor, Roman Abramovich? Or any one of the other of Russia’s oligarch statesmen? Unlikely, since these people are the state and have benefited tremendously from its consolidation. Oh, and there’s fact that these people are, well, economic nationalists.
Oh, but not for Freedland. For her, the intimacy between the oligarchs and the Medvedev/Putin state is merely “kowtowing.” After all, they don’t want to be the next Khodorkovsky, who’s appeal for parole was rejected. However, when sycophancy is stripped away, she maintains, you get the cosmopolitan oligarch, who is essentially “global” and profits off of “Western capital markets, western consumers, western acquisitions and even western MBAs.” And this love for all things Western, logic dictates, is really a sign of some nascent inkling for democracy. Isn’t it? Keep dreaming.
The truth of the matter is that Russia’s political and business elite are one and the same. This is the beauty of it all. And what is a better expression of the brilliance of capitalism than when the state becomes the private property of the capitalists? One would think that the free marketeers at the Financial Times would be jealous. After all, democracy just “socializes” political power.Post Views: 50