Monday, March 03, 2008

Short Thoughts on the Russian Elections

--The Kremlin got the voter turnout it wanted--a sufficiently respectable number to give the elections the glow of legitimacy. We will have to wait to see whether, as with the Duma elections, we find some significant regional and local variations.

--The Kremlin also got, from its perspective, a "competitive enough" race. It was not a Stalinist 99 percent vote. 30 percent of Russians, as in 2004, cast votes for someone "else". The bonus is that almost all of the votes cast against Dmitry Medvedev went to the unreconstructed communist or the posed "extreme nationalist"--the "liberal democratic" option got less than 2 percent. Either those who supported his outlook didn't vote at all to protest the outcome, or voted for Medvedev. At any rate, the Kremlin can now say that the bulk of the rising middle class prefers the sure course of the Putin legacy rather than risk change at this point. Contrast this to Armenia where a state of emergency is now in effect and where the opposition is prepared to contest the results of the presidential election.

--Finally, the Kremlin indicated, once again, that it no longer cares what Westerners think about its elections. And by the way, yes, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization observer mission, led by its Secretary-General, Bolat Nurgaliyev, declared the elections to be free and fair.

Nick, an interesting conclusion from Martin Walker's column today on Russia:

"Both the old Russian president and the new one have been studying with care what Clinton and Obama had to say about them. What they heard was neither flattering, nor well-informed. There is a great deal more the next American president needs to know about Russia than the name of the new president."
From the IHT. It is interesting, this new standard, an election not being free but reflecting the will of the people:

"Election observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said Monday that Russia's presidential election was neither free nor fair, although it reflected the will of the people in a country with little faith in democracy. Andreas Gross, who led the 22-member mission, described the vote as a "reflection of the will of the electorate, whose democratic potential unfortunately has not been tapped.""
For 70 years Mexico was even less democratic than either Russia or Iran and there was nary a peep out of US or EU.

Stop being so foolish.
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