End Game

Russia continues headlong into its new authoritarianism:

With President Vladimir Putin virtually uncontested and democratic procedures dramatically compromised, the liberal parties were considering boycotting the presidential election. Until Khakamada’s self-nomination, the choices for Russian liberals were confined to voting against all candidates or abstaining from voting altogether. Putin’s “rivals” were picked by his aides to better set off the Russian president. As a result, the forthcoming race had begun to look like an absurd joke.

Two veteran presidential candidates, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov and the ultranationalist buffoon Vladimir Zhirinovsky, will not run. The two seasoned political players may have known better than to come out as Putin’s direct opponents. Rumor has it that they made their decisions after “consultations” in the Kremlin. Putin’s aides may have indeed disliked the idea of the incumbent being opposed by politicians with tangible support, especially ugly ones such as Zhirinovsky.

The Kremlin has effective leverage over party leaders: It may easily strip any party of financing. With oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky in jail, no businessman in his right mind would sponsor a party without Kremlin approval. Defiance of the Kremlin has become very unpopular among the Russian elites, business and political alike.


I almost typed, “headlong into one-party rule,” but decided against it.

From what I’ve read, Putin doesn’t seem to have much of a real party. He has his Kremlin clique, but no real program. Oh, he has some nationalist rhetoric, some anti-business pogroms, and. . . well, that’s about it. His vision is for a “strong Russia,” which really translates into English as a “strong Putin.”

Really though, there’s not much for us to be frightened of while Putin runs the show. He can be counted on to act towards us like a weaker, slightly more reasonable France. What should worry you is what comes after Putin — and how.

When you build a one-man, ideal-free party, as he has done, he’ll leave no political infrastructure to support Russia when he’s gone. He’ll be President-for-Life, I’m sure — but whether by natural causes or coup flu, eventually he’ll pass from the scene. Then Russia could very well be left right where it was in 1991.

What a waste.


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