Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gosh, what a surprise

President Prime Minister Putin's current party "United Russia" has won handsomely or, as the International Herald Tribune puts it, handily, in Russia's regional and district elections. Not altogether surprising, one might say, given the situation in that country.

What is a little odd is the phrasing of the article, the first I saw this morning on the subject. It starts off by saying without quotation marks:
The ruling party in Russia has won handily in regional elections, the Central Election Commission said Monday, the first electoral test for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin since the economy began to turn dire.

The party, United Russia, won the majority of seats in all nine regions where local parliamentary elections were held Sunday, and nearly swept smaller municipal elections.
Electoral test, eh? Just how difficult were those conditions? Harder or easier than those on University Challenge?

Further down we are told:
But many independent analysts said that elections have become little more than technical exercises since Putin came to power as president in 2000, and offer only a haphazard indication of voter preference.

Television and many other media outlets are largely tilted in favor of United Russia, and, out of four parties present in the federal Parliament, only one, the Communist Party, offers real, if pliable, opposition to Putin's party.

"This was just a small, uninteresting show," said Anton Orekh, a political commentator on Echo Moskvy radio. Public interest in elections, he said during an interview, had become "slightly less than low."
Unexplained murders of critics, lack of legal prosecution and other attempts to bully may have something to do with that lack of public interest.

The IHT holds firmly to the view that Putin remains the most popular politician in Russia, a view that has little to say for it, given the overwhelming publicity he gets and the complete lack of information about anyone else. Being more popular that supposed President Medvedev is hardly a great achievement. Mind you, there are rumours that the latter may be trying to form links with the dissatisfied military but we have to wait and see how true those are.

Given that there are already discontents across the country, particularly the Far East, and given that these discontents cannot be expressed through electoral means, we can but wonder what the spring, the traditional time for trouble in Russia will bring. And if there are serious disorders, will those journalists who think President Prime Minister Putin is so popular, be astonished?

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