Monday, December 5, 2011

Mr Putin seems a tad less popular

Earlier this morning, the New York Times wrote:
With 95 percent of the votes processed, United Russia led with a shade under 50 percent, trailed by the Communists with 19 percent, Just Russia with 13 percent and the Liberal Democrats with nearly 12 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. In 2007, United Russia won more than 64 percent of the vote, while the Communist Party was a distant second with 11.5 percent.
Results turned out to be worse for Mr Putin's United Russia than expected. According to the BBC Russian Service, out of the 450 places in the Duma, United Russia got 238, down from 315, the Communists got 92, up from 57, the self-described Social-Democrat "Just Russia" got 64, up from 38 and Mr Zhirinovsky's Liberal-Democrats got 56, up from 40. United Russia still has a majority but it is not so overwhelming as to make life easy for them, though on crucial matters they will probably be able to rely on some of the other votes.

Reuters calls the opposition parties left-wing, which, I suppose, they are though how one distinguishes right from left in Russian politics is something of a mystery. Can they possibly think of United Russia as "right-wing"? On what basis? They are, however, worried that
A weaker showing by Russia's party of power in Sunday's general election and gains for left-wing opposition parties increase the risk Vladimir Putin may hike spending yet further as he seeks to regain the presidency next March.

The prime minister, president from 2000-08, may be tempted to open the fiscal spigots even wider to minimize risks of a credible challenger emerging after his United Russia party's lower-house majority was cut to just 13 seats, economists said.
The chances are that those fiscal spigots will be opened if there is anything to come out of them.

The Economist gives a good analysis of what is going on, what has been going on and what might happen next.
YESTERDAY'S parliamentary poll in Russia was always going to be more a referendum on Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party than a real election. The genuine opposition was barred from taking part long before polling day; television, which remains the main source of news and views for most of the country, has been working at full propaganda throttle; and governors and mayors across Russia were given specific targets for United Russia's voting figures and told to meet them.

Yet United Russia won just under 50% of the vote, down from 64% in 2007. It will enjoy a simple majority in parliament but no longer the two-thirds it needs to alter the constitution. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, who was placed at the top of United Russia’s electoral list, tried to put a brave face on the result. Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of parliament and United Russia's chairman, argued that the party put in a strong performance compared with other European ruling parties.

That smacked of desperation, given that Russia’s voting procedure bears little resemblance to genuine elections. Most analysts say that the real lesson of yesterday's poll is that Mr Putin's regime is starting to lose legitimacy among its core voters, particularly in large cities.

This explains the Kremlin’s hysterical behaviour towards election monitors. The most important of these, Golos (Voice, or Vote), was harassed and smeared by one of Russia's main television channels after Mr Putin likened its observers, who receive foreign grants, to Judas. What irritated the authorities most, however, was an interactive map created by Golos that allowed people across Russia to report election abuses. On Saturday this earned Golos a $1,000 fine from a Moscow court.
Indeed, there have been many complaints about electoral fraud, intimidation, voters being carted round electoral stations in order to vote early, late and often, and even of opposition websites being attacked and brought down. The complaints, as we can see from the two links, come both from Western observers and Russians.
Other signs of possible falsification were the Soviet-style 99 percent result in Chechnya backing United Russia and a screenshot from state-run Rossia-24 news channel — that quickly went viral on the Internet — showing results in Rostov-on-Don totaling a whopping 146 percent.
All the parties apart from United Russia said that they are mulling over the possibility of going to law because of electoral irregularities and President Medvedev (yes he still is the president) has issued not-so-veiled threats to governors of regions where United Russia did particularly poorly.

This evening there was a demonstration in the centre of Moscow, organized by the group Solidarnost, that demanded the setting aside of the fraudulent election. As a matter of fact, all accounts speak of thousands, the police saying a couple of thousand, whereas others talk of seven thousand.

As is normal for Russia, the demonstration was attacked by the police but by Russian standards the violence of the arrests was mild. Around 300 people were detained and another 100 in St Petersburg. Among others arrested was the anti-corruption blogger Andrei Navalny who at one point disappeared and there were worries about his welfare. It seems that he is alive and well though there seems to be some problem about letting him be seen by a lawyer. (There was a live stream of the crowd outside the prison with demands to let a lawyer through but the battery died on the chap who was filming it all. Oh no, he is back or as back as he can be. Apparently, he has told people that he is off to get some shut-eye.)

What lessons, if any, will the once and future President, now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin draw from it all? Perhaps that elections are rather chancy and it is better to do without them?

No comments:

Post a Comment