russia’s election rigging

Posted on February 29, 2008

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We have known for a while about the Russian penchant for standard operating procedures such as a disregard for the rule of law, show trials and intimidation.

The Kremlin, or more accurately, the country’s strongman and president, Vladimir Putin, has already hand-picked his successor, while ensuring that he would stay in the power game by moving on to the prime minister’s office.

The PR machinery has been hard at work in the last few months promoting and cementing the “legitimacy” of Dmitry Medvedev as the next Russian president. There are posters of him with Putin in Moscow, and traditional Matrioshka dolls with his face sold in the streets.

But that’s not enough for the Russian authorities.

A story has surfaced in the British newspaper, the Guardian, that the Kremlin has in place a plan to rig votes to artificially boost turnout numbers and give Medvedev a bigger mandate.

Governors, regional officials, and head teachers have all been co-opted into the process to contribute to the illusion of Medvedev winning by a commanding landslide, according to the Guardian. The acceptable “winning figures” for Medvedev is at least 72 per cent of the votes. To reach that number, the usual tricks like ballot box stuffing and threatening government employees to vote or risk losing their jobs are just some of the methods that would be employed.

What is sad is that Medvedev would probably have won anyway, without the vote-rigging and scare-tactics, given the high approval rating Putin enjoys with the populace and hence the willingness to accept Medvedev for being his prodigy.

But the Kremlin, aware that the turnout is likely to be low and it has not totally suppressed all dissent in the country, has to prove that its leaders have been “legitimately” chose by popular choice and by a large margin at that. So it is ensuring that Medvedev will crush three other presidential aspirants, who do not have a realistic shot anyway.

What an unfortunate start it is to Medvedev’s debut as the new president. While he has been seen as more liberal or amenable to changing the way things are done in Russia, it is seriously doubtful if Putin’s hand would stop being the one pulling the strings and give Medvedev much of a chance for independence or reform.

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Posted in: politics, russia