President Putin created the political party named United Russia as a means of carrying out his plan to control Russia. But, suddenly a person has emerged to end this political party’s dominance of the nation. The renegade refused to join United Russia. The renegade said United Russia’s programs had nothing to do with the ideas of Vladmir Putin. The renegade denounced United Russia as a party of incompetents without any ideals or beliefs in Russia. The renegade is none other than the party’s founder, Vladmir Putin! The Russian president during the past month has been attacking just about every group and person in his nation who supports his control of the country. The end result is that Putin, like most would-be dictators, lacks any loyal friends. Those in government serve him, not out of belief, but out of fear. They fear he will turn on them as he has turned on just about any person who dares challenge his authority and his dominance of the nation.
The Russian people sought in Vladmir Putin a savior, one who could end the chaotic conditions which always are part of a new born democracy. They got security, but at what price for the Russian soul and their desire to witness the emergence of a new democratic society.
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.
Vyacheslav Volodin, a prominent member of President Putin’s United Russia party commented that election debates were nothing but “squabbles.” He refused to allow any member of the dominant United Russia political party to take part in election discussions or debates since it was a waste of time. As Gregory Bovi commented in the Moscow Times, “These people are completely isolated from the daily lives of their electorate. With rare exceptions, most politicians are unable to engage in public debate. They cannot answer uncomfortable questions without having prior preparation, nor are they fit to participate in the tough, competitive environment of politics. Moreover, as a rule, they are incapable of speaking in a language that ordinary people can understand.” Puin’s decision to had United Russia, in effect, ended the debate because assumes his victory and that of his party is a given. Democracies in the world have evolved politically to the point where public debates on television are an accepted aspect of electoral politics–but not in Russia. Putin’s controlled media has not helped. They scheduled debates in the 11:00 a.m. slot and the 7:05 a.m. time period or late at night when people are sleeping. Such is life in 2007 in the democracy of Russia.
Russians are gathering all over the country to express their admiration for Putin’s United Russia political party and urging their beloved leader to remain in power. A Russian lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, went around the country attending these pro-Putin meetings where “ordinary” people took on themselves responsibility for organizing the adoring masses who love Putin to come out and show the world how much he is loved. He was in one city where an “ordinary doctor” was able to bring together a crowd of 15,000 people. Meanwhile, the Russian press published copies of telegrams and official directives addressed to various organizations and universities that require a certain number of their employees and students to be present at the pro-Putin rallies. There are even attempts by leaders of A Just Russia to persuade the legislature to change the Constitution in order that Putin can have another term of president, but these efforts are even too much for Putin to carry out without causing an outcry of anger.
In the aftermath of the end of the Soviet Union, expectations were high that the Russian people would finally be able to live in a democratic society and end rule by a single man. There was a moment when that dream was realized, but the emergence of Putin and a active booming economy has altered the situation. Russia is not a dictatorship, but the old standby attitude that a strong man leading the nation still appears a strong attraction to many Russians.
In the 1990s, Russia got rid of communism and was on the road to establishing a democracy. The press openly expressed its ideas without fear of being suppressed and numerous political parties vied for power. Then, along came former KGB agent, Vladmir Putin, to clean up the mess of democracy. He created a United Russia party which was completely under his control, ended elections of province governors by having them appointed by the president of Russia, and rigged elections. In the 2003 elections, if an opposing party obtained 0.9% it was conveniently changed to 0.5% with the remainder transfered to United Russia. This led to many parties failing to obtain the necessary 50,000 votes which qualified them for at least one seat in the Duma. Now, times have changed with United Russia easily obtaining 70% of the vote. Putin’s current problem is getting other parties to put up candidates since they know the deck is stacked. Fortunately, there are always the conservative communists who probably will put up candidates. As Boris Kagaritsky writes in the Moscow Times, “In the end since Russia has a de facto one party system it is not necessary at all to falsify election results.”
Putin no longer how to fool around with such mundane things as rigging elections, he controls the entire process. Opposition candidates can’t get on TV, they lack money to spend on elections, so to the outside world there will be a “free election” in December for the Dumas. But, most Russians know the results and many will stay home. Such is democracy in 2007 Russia.
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.