Elections are over. Medvedev is President. (No surprise there.)
There were some demonstrations on Sunday (day of elections). The Kremlin is very tight with who it lets demonstrate (they cite traffic concerns and inconvenience to the public). Several groups were out protesting both the election and the Kremlin’s choice to not let them protest. Of course, that brought out the riot police. One such protest was near the Christiye Prudy metro which isn’t far from our flat.
But, all that said, we really haven’t seen any changes or felt any impact. It is business as usual. The “regular” people seem isolated from it all. So far, everyone that I have spoken with did not vote! Don’t know how they got a 70% turnout rate!
Changes will probably come small and progressively.
The big news is cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine because of debt.
I have included several news stories and op-ed pieces about the election. Read on.
Dozens of Opposition Activists Detained
By David Nowak MOSCOW TIMES
OMON riot police detaining opposition activists Monday near the Chistiye Prudy metro before a march to protest the presidential election. Story, Page 2.
Riot police roughly detained dozens of protesters, including Union of Right Forces leader Nikita Belykh, in central Moscow on Monday evening, quashing an opposition march that City Hall had refused to authorize.
Simultaneously, in St. Petersburg, which allowed a march to go ahead, about 2,500 people showed up to challenge the legitimacy of Sunday’s election and call on voters to reject the president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, the Novy Region news agency reported.
Former chess champion Garry Kasparov and the leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party, Eduard Limonov, traveled to St. Petersburg to protest the vote, which they called a “farce.” Both are leaders of the Other Russia opposition coalition.
Belykh and leading human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov arrived at the meeting spot for the Moscow march near the Chistiye Prudy metro station shortly before it was to start at 5 p.m. Dozens of National Bolshevik activists and other members of The Other Russia milled around as rain lightly fell.
The police acted quickly to prevent the march, detaining 40 to 50 people, including Belykh and Ponomaryov, as they gave interviews to reporters about 10 minutes after the march was to have started.
Belykh, who stressed he was attending in his personal capacity rather than as leader of the Union of Right Forces, said, “We don’t want people to think that a free election has taken place.”
Also detained were Garry Kasparov’s press secretary, Marina Litvinovich, and Denis Belunov, an activist with Kasparov’s United Civil Front.
Belunov said by telephone late Monday that he was still being held at the Meshchansky district police station.
Police gave no reason why the activists had been detained. OMON officers plucked individual protesters out of the crowd before they could set out to walk to Turgenev Square, where a rally was scheduled to take place. The officers forcibly carried away young National Bolshevik supporters, who chanted, “We Need Another Russia” and “Fascists.”
Despite the detentions, some 10 activists with the United Civil Front made it to a presidential administration office at Staraya Ploshchad and glued a leaflet to the front door demanding that Medvedev renounce his election as president, the Regnum news agency reported.
No detentions were reported from the St. Petersburg rally, which was also attended by rock star Yury Shevchuk. At least 20 trucks with OMON riot police and Interior troops were parked at the final destination of the march, Chernyshevsky Garden, Gazeta.ru said.
Early Monday, St. Petersburg police detained Maxim Reznik, a senior Yabloko official, as he left the party’s headquarters, said Dmitry Yastreba, a colleague of Reznik. Reznik had been assisting members of Golos, a nongovernmental organization, in checking fraud allegations made by voters late Sunday. Yastreba said Reznik finished work at about 3 a.m. and was beaten by plainclothes officers as he exited the building. A uniformed policeman then detained him, Yastreba said.
Reznik, who could not be reached because his cell phone battery was dead, remained in custody Monday on suspicion of assaulting a policeman, Yastreba said, citing the police.
What Happens When All the Oil Runs Out
By Anne Applebaum
As predicted, Sunday’s election was a farce — a battle between Dmitry Medvedev and three officially sanctioned opponents. Even the head of the Central Elections Commission conceded that media coverage has been, well, biased in Medvedev’s favor.
Only one question remains unanswered: Why did anyone bother holding an election at all?
The answer, I think, can lie only in the ruling clique’s fundamental insecurity, odd as that sounds. Though the denizens of the Kremlin do not, cannot, seriously fear Western military attack, they do still seem to fear Western-inspired popular discontent: public questioning of their personal wealth, public opposition to their power, political demonstrations of the sort that created the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. To stave off these things, they maintain the democratic rituals that give them a semblance of legitimacy.
The need for legitimacy also helps explain the string of vitriolic, aggressive attacks on Western democracies that presaged Sunday’s election. In the past couple of years, President Vladimir Putin has openly compared the United States to Nazi Germany, set up an institution designed to monitor America’s supposedly dubious democracy and frequently accused both Americans and Western Europeans, especially the British, of hypocrisy and human rights violations. This rhetoric serves several purposes, but above all it is designed to inoculate the Russian public against the example of more open societies. The message is simple: Russia is not merely a democracy, it is a better democracy than Western democracies.
Even some of the shockingly Soviet interpretations of history promulgated in Russia in recent years make sense in this context. Surely a part of their purpose was to create an alternate version of post-Soviet history, one that supports the Kremlin’s current rule. According to the Putinist explanation of history, the fall of the Soviet Union was not a moment of liberation but the beginning of collapse. The hardships and deprivations of the 1990s were not the result of decades of communist neglect and widespread thievery but of capitalism and democracy.
In other words, communism was stable and safe, post-communism has been a disaster and Putin’s regime has set the country on the right track again. The more Russians believe this, the less likely they are to want a truly open, genuinely entrepreneurial, authentically democratic society — at least until the oil runs out.
But everyone needs a backup plan. In case oil prices drop again, the democratic rituals must go on.
Russia’s Third President
// Dmitry Medvedev Ahead at the Polls
First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, according to preliminary data released by the Central Elections Commission, will win in the first round of presidential elections with over 65 percent of the vote. His campaign manager, chief of the presidential staff Sergey Sobyanin, stated that Medvedev has received the number of votes “needed for victory.”
Medvedev’s lead over his opponents looks conclusive and corresponds to pollsters’ pre-election forecasts. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is in second place, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is in third. Notably, both Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky received a greater portion of votes than their parties did in the State Duma elections in December. According to preliminary data, fewer people voted for independent Andrey Bogdanov than signed petitions for his nomination.
For the Kremlin, the margin of Medvedev’s win was not as important as the size of the turnout. The more votes he receives, the more legitimate the new president will look in the eyes of the Russian people and the better he will be received by the world community. That is why, since December, all the resources of the administration have been directed at raising voter turnout. The CEC found out three hours before voting ended that over half of Russians had gone to the polls. CEC chairman Vladimir Churkov had no doubt then that turnout would exceed the 64-percent mark of the 2004 presidential elections and reach 67 percent.
According to preliminary statistics, the most active voters were in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area (86.85%), Chukotka Autonomous Area (83.85%), Bashkortostan (82.29%), Tyumen Region (80.17%), Kemerovo Region (78.26%), the Altai Republic (73.09%) and Tatarstan (72.685%). Residents of Mordovia and Ingushetia lost a little of their enthusiasm for voting since the Duma elections, when nearly 100 percent of Ingushetians voted and, in some districts of Mordovia, turnout exceeded 100 percent. About 80 percent of Mordovians voted yesterday and, three hours before voting ended in Ingushetia, over 70 percent of votes had come to the polls. Only in Chechnya did voter turnout top 90 percent. Data for Russia’s two largest cities was less impressive. In Moscow, only 58.32 percent of citizens voted. But that is more than in the December Duma elections (54%) or the 2004 presidential election (57%). In St. Petersburg, turnout bettered the two previous elections by 6-7 percent. Three hours before the polls closed, turnout in St. Petersburg was just over 51 percent.
The reaction of the opposition could be called standard. Zyuganov, running in his third presidential election, stated that “they have robbed the country again and; they did not provide a chance to discuss problems that came to a head long ago.” However, the results of the parallel tally of vote conducted by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation itself did not significantly differ from those released by the CEC. Yesterday at 9:00 p.m., 2 percent of the summaries had been received and processed by the Zyuganov’s campaign headquarters. According to the Communists’ count, the candidate received 22.5 percent of the vote, and Medvedev 60.5 percent. The Communists official filed 110 complaints with the CEC, most of them about ballot box stuffing. Communist Party member of the CEC Andrey Klychkov said that “orders from above were carried out everywhere, using whatever methods and the turnout was overstated, which is to Medvedev’s advantage.” However, secretary of the CEC Nikolay Konkin told Kommersant that no complaints that could seriously effect the outcome of the election had been received.
Zhirinovsky, taking part in the presidential election for the fifth time, called the preliminary data from the vote “false statistics” and said that “we don’t have elections, but a procedure for appointing the appointed president of the country.”
The CEC plans to release the official results on March 7. In the coming months, the country’s leadership will be occupied with procedures that are completely new to it and to the country. There are in some senses two presidents in the country now, as Mikhail Krasnov, deputy chairman of the department of constitutional law at the Higher School of Economics and legal advisor to First President of Russia Boris Yeltsin from 1995 to 1997, explained to Kommersant. Medvedev, the president elect, will receive full powers only after his inauguration. That is possible no sooner then Russian President Vladimir Putin’s term expires, May 7, the date on which he took the oath of office in 2004. Until then, Putin can issue orders, initiate and sign laws, conclude international agreements and perform any of his other constitutional duties. Thus, the outgoing president may “harm the incoming president somehow.” There was an example of this in world experience, in the United States at the beginning of the 19th century. Krasnov does not predict any such tricks from the outgoing president, however, since “Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have a gentlemen’s agreement.”