Putin tries to run up the score
MAXIM MARMUR/AFP/Getty Images With zero polling stations reporting from zero districts, this blogger is now ready to call this coming Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections for… Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party! We specialize in bold predictions here at FP. United Russia is currently polling at about 64 percent and the Communists are likely the only other ...
MAXIM MARMUR/AFP/Getty Images
With zero polling stations reporting from zero districts, this blogger is now ready to call this coming Sunday’s Russian parliamentary elections for… Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party! We specialize in bold predictions here at FP.
United Russia is currently polling at about 64 percent and the Communists are likely the only other party that will pass the 7 percent threshold required for a Duma seat. (If there’s a bright spot in all this, it’s that suspected murderer Andrei Lugovoi probably won’t be elected.) All the same, the virtually guaranteed landslide hasn’t stopped the Kremlin from doing nearly everything possible to put down Russia’s already weak opposition. Here’s a roundup:
- Dozens of demonstrators including opposition leader Garry Kasparov have been jailed for the past week.
- The leader of the liberal Yabloko party in the violent region of Dagestan was assassinated.
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe decided not to attend after they weren’t sent visas in time. Putin blamed the U.S. State Department for meddling.
- United Russia has monopolized the airwaves.
- There’s been a mysterious surge in applications for absentee ballots.
- The Kremlin reneged on a promise to grant liberal parties a few seats if they refrained from criticism of the government.
- Bureaucrats and students are reportedly being intimidated by their bosses and professors into voting for United Russia. Workers in some offices are required to sign up 10 others to vote and report their names to their superiors.
If United Russia would overwhelmingly win even a fair contest, what’s the point of all this? It’s clear that if Putin feels that if he is to remain in power when his constitutionally limited term runs out next year, he not only needs a win, he needs to crush the idea that meaningful opposition even exists. This election could just be setting the stage for a much more significant power grab next year, though it’s anybody’s guess how this will ultimately play out.
In Russia, they call this type of manipulation “political technology.” Right now, the world is watching a master class.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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