Don´t be afraid to see what you see
Friday, 12 August 2011
Putin´s Potemkin democracy
Putin dives and the popularity of his United Russia party is sinking
The Moscow Times continues its excellent reporting on corruption and manipulation in Vladmir Putin´s Russia. Opinion page editor Michael Bohm writes about the latest scandal in Putin´s former home city, St. Petersburg:
A recent scandal involving St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko is a vivid illustration of everything that is wrong with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “managed democracy.” A secret by-election was organized in two tiny St. Petersburg municipalities to exclude candidates from opposing parties and to guarantee Matviyenko’s victory in the races. Matviyenko is required by law to have a “deputy mandate” before she can be appointed speaker of the Federation Council, something the Kremlin publicly endorsed in late June. ---
Since Putin came to power in 2000, the Kremlin has used the elections commission, just like the courts, as an in-house resource to create a Potemkin democracy. But, as the Matviyenko scandal demonstrates, the facade is often so clumsily constructed that even the most naive and faithful Putin supporters see right through it. This is one reason why the nationwide ratings of United Russia — as well as its leader, Putin — have fallen.
It might be tempting to dismiss the Matviyenko scandal as just another crude special operation from Kremlin “political technologists” if it weren’t for one thing: The Federation Council speaker is the third-highest ranked official in the government, after the president and prime minister.
This is why an appeal from local opposition leaders to vote for Matviyenko in the by-election — based on the principle that the sooner she is transferred out of St. Petersburg, the better — is misguided. Although a move to Moscow would certainly be a relief to most St. Petersburg residents, it will only raise the problem of poor government and leadership to a federal level.
Matviyenko, the consummate Komsomolka, built her political career in the 1980s, rising through the ranks of the Leningrad Communist Party. In those days, there were also pseudo elections in which Kremlin-favored candidates received 99 percent of the vote against dummy candidates. The Matviyenko affair shows how little has changed in terms of how Kremlin favorites are “elected” — except perhaps that the winning percentage has been lowered somewhat.
Most western leaders choose to turn a blind eye on Putin´s Potemkin democracy. Some even openly admire the former second rate KGB spy. The most ardent admirer is former German chancellorGerhard Schröder (de facto on Putin´s payroll as a representative of Nord Stream/Gazprom) who still considers Putin a "flawless democrat".