President Vladmir Putin came out swinging against his own party — United Russia– claiming he had joined it because he “didn’t have anything better.” The president asked: “What is United Russia then? Is it an ideal political organization? Of course not. The party has no stable political ideology or pinciples for which the overwhelming majority of its members ware ready to fight (for).” However, Putin made it clear that the expected victory of United Russia in upcoming elections for the Duma gave him a “moral right” to have a dominant influence in Russian politics. He refused to make clear what he meant by having an “influence” in the political life of Russia once his term as president concludes.
President Putin, undoubtedly, is bothered by having to spend his precious time even talking or negotiating with people in political parties. Perhaps, he would feel more comfortable if Russia would simply do away with the irksome presence of political parties and voting and elections and simply allow the man to do his job– running the country his way. The old KGB mentality of Putin continues cropping up when discussions concerning democracy get raised.
President Vladmir Putin’s political party, United Russia, has been dominating the electoral field during the past few months. But, despite its control over media outlets, laws which curtail opportunities for other political parties to elect members of the Duma, the electorate appears to have an overwhelming boredom with the entire process. United Russia was garnering 57% of potential votes in October, but now its numbers are down to about 44%. The ironic aspect of this decline is that competitive parties are not gaining additional votes, people appear to be indifferent. They are probably tired of inflation and the lack of competition in a vote dominated by one party. A party must gain at least 7% of the vote in order to qualify to have any of its members elected to the Duma. As of this point, it appears only the Communist party will reach that number.
President Putin lacks trust in the Russian people and thus has stacked laws to prevent opposition parties from electing members to the Duma. Ironically, in so doing, he has made the election boring and irrelevant to most Russians. Why develop an interest when the entire process is arranged so United Russia will eventually win.
The United Russia web site of the party which now runs Russia under leadership of Vladmir Putin is urging that the current arrangement be made permanent. Abdul-Khakhin Sultgov in an article on the web site urges that after this year’s Duma elections (the outcome is already known since Putin has effectively blocked out other political parties from having any chance of winning)he wants all political parties, public groups, officials, and so on to pledge allegiance to Putin in a new Pact of Civil Unity. A Civil Unity Council would be established which Putin would then use to rule Russia. After all, claims Sultgov, “the country has no political system” and must retain their glorious leader or the nation will collapse.
If Russia collapses because someone else is its president this suggests Putin has done a terrible job of preparing the Russian people for a democratic state. This type of hysterical groveling before the feet of the all powerful leader is reflective of Putin’s actions in crushing political opposition through manipulation of electoral laws and use of the mass media. If it is any comfort to Russians, George Washington voluntarily stepped down from the presidency and went home to his farm because he trusted the new government of America would survive with someone else as its president. Putin is no George Washington!!
Russia will employ a new proportional system of voting which allows regional areas to have greater voice in the new parliament. A Russian province, in some cases, is as large geographically as a European nation so it is difficult for smaller parties to identify candidates who are known throughout the province. Putin’s United Russia party is already off and running with 600 candidates listed to run for positions. Putin controls the media which, in effect, makes for difficulty in opposition candidates gaining access to television and presenting their ideas to a wider audience. Putin has stacked the deck to ensure the United Russia party and candidates will be known to voters. Putin eliminated election of provincial governors which allowed him to name those officials. He is now having provincial governors listed as candidates for election to the Duma. Any governor who Putin doesn’t like is being “blacklisted” so his name will not appear on the list of candidates.
Russia, which was on the road to becoming a democratic nation in the 1990s, is slowly being transformed into a one party operation. A few opposition candidates will win seats in the Duma for show purposes. Putin is the man in charge for now, and for the coming years.