Bauhaus, “Slice of Life,” Burning from the Inside, 1983.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Responses to the Dissenter’s March continues. The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Huevel calls for a fight to press freedom in Russia. This comes amid news that Russian authorities shut down the Samara branch of Novaya gazeta two weeks ago. The police charged Novaya editors with using pirated software. You gotta love it when copyright infringement becomes a weapon of political repression.
Jonas Bernstein gives a tacit “yes” to the question of whether Sunday’s “crackdown” represents a wider wave of repression. Closing down newspapers, arresting and harassing political opposition–specifically SPS, Other Russia and Yabloko–are all part of something larger. But those in a real pinch according to Bernstein might just be Russia’s regional governors. The regions have taken Putin’s mixed message that United Russia needs to show leadership at the same time “all kinds of crooks” have wormed their way into its ranks, have taken this as a hint to ratchet “up pressure on the opposition” and “to secure a strong turnout for United Russia in order to ensure their own futures.” This engenders the question of whether “repression” is more fueled by centripetal paranoia over their own local power base. Kinda of reminds me of when Stalin told his regional secretaries that there would be free and open elections in 1936, and in response they bombarded the vodzh’ with reports about kulaks and priests making a possible electoral coup.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t signals emanating from the center. Bernstein likens Putin’s linking of the “opposition” with the West as a possible sign of more repression to come.
Bernstein’s words come on the cusp of Putin launching more salvos against the West, specifically the United States. Today he announced that he has “information” that OSCE’s pullout was at the behest of the US State Department as a means to “delegitimize” the elections. “We will take this into account in our relations with that country,” Putin told the Russian press. The State Department has denied any such thing but I’m sure the Kremlin counted on that. The Russian state media got its sound bite, which was probably the point anyway.
Still, rhetoric against the Western bogeyman has been ratcheted up of late. But I suspect it’s all show for domestic consumption. If the airbrushed images that don websites like Za Putina are any indication, this election like so many others around the world is more about image rather than substance. If Putin looks strong, Russia is strong. The Tsar-President, if the effort from “below” to make him a “national leader” has any real substance, is one with the narod. One should remember that the possible real target of the Kremlin’s “pressure” is not so much the “opposition” but United Russia’s middle management. Populist appeals as a means to squeeze regional chieftains are an tried and true form of Russian rule. Basically, Putin is telling them, “I am everything, you are nothing. You need me more than I need you.” Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.
What is amazing about all this is that it seems that the Kremlin clans have circled the wagons. The talk about clan warfare that hit the press weeks ago has fallen silent. It seems that the siloviki and the business elite have made a tacit peace around their mutual interests of plunder, power, and prestige. The Russian centers of power are standing firm, while the regions scramble to secure their piece of the post-electoral pie. Smacking down “opposition” in the provinces make for good demonstrations of loyalty.
Where does all this leave Russia real opposition, the Communist Party? A few days ago the Guardian’s Luke Harding bravely stated that the KPRF might be Russia’s last “democratic option.” Gensek Zyuganov has been traveling the country speaking to Russia’s downtrodden about the real social-economic issues. “When Putin came to power there were seven oligarchs. Now there are 61,” he reminded a crowd in Moscow suburb Korolyov. He even displayed some political anekdoty to charm the crowd.
Zyuganov tells a Roman Abramovich joke. Roman arrives in heaven only to find his way blocked by St Paul. St Paul asks Abramovich: “Do you own Chelsea, five yachts and a 5km stretch of beach in the south of France?” Abramovich replies: “Yes.” St Paul replies: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it in here.”
The KPRF’s message: they are the only ones keeping Russia from slipping into a completely corrupt morass. One only hopes that they aren’t too late. Still despite what some may think, the KPRF can bank on this statement by the Levanda Center’s Leonid Sedov: “The others have been excluded from the parliamentary sphere. The Communists will be the only oppositional force. This means voters who want to retain opposition in any form have to vote for the Communists.” Oh, the historical irony.
You wouldn’t known the Communist were in contention if you rely on English media for your electoral news. Kasparov must roll off the English tongue better than Zyuganov. The Communist Party seems more often mentioned to paint United Russia as a CPSU redux, rather than a party running for election in their own right. The KPRF is currently polling way behind United Russia. VTsIOM gives them 6 percent to United Russia’s 55, and Levada honors them with 14 percent to UR’s 67. Whatever the hard numbers, United Russia holds a 49 to 53 point margin. However distance the KPRF may be numerically, maybe its time to face reality and see them as the only real potential political bulwark to United Russia’s dominance.Post Views: 691
By Sean — 5 years ago
If you want a sense of the extent homophobia is entering Russian public life, here is what Dmitrii Kiselev, who’s wikipedia page describes him as a “Russian journalist and fascist” said on his show “Historical Process,” which airs on Russia state channel Rossiia. Keep in mind, these comments were made back in April 2012 a year before the law against “gay propaganda” was passed. The clip is only now making the rounds in Russian blogsphere. Given statements like this on state television, its no surprise violence against homosexuals in Russia is on the rise.
“For my mind, penalizing gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. We need to ban blood donation from them – and sperm donations too. And in case of a car accident, we should burn or bury the heart of the deceased seeing that it is unfit to continue the existence of anyone’s life.”Post Views: 1,786
By Sean — 11 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: 445