20 September 2021
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
The United Russia Party is the faction of Vladimir Putin. In this weekend's election, it won a majority of the seats in the Duma. This is no surprise. The media environment, the state's repression of dissent, and fraudulent votes all weighed heavily against this being a free and fair election. United Russia took almost a majority of the popular vote, which will translate into more than 2/3 of the 450 seats. The Communists came second, and despite supporting Mr. Putin's agenda, they are alleging widespread cheating including ballot-box stuffing. No foreign observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were present, the first time sine 1993. Russia will stumble forward unchanged.
The media environment is the foundation of Mr. Putin's hold on the Russian people. The state-run media like Rossiya and Channel One provide the government's line with all the subtlety of the old Soviet propaganda machine. Those outlets enjoy the support of private news agencies like REN TV, which broadcast the very same perspectives and allegations. That would not be enough, however, to do Mr. Putin's dirty work if there were significant free, open opposition outlets. They are fewer and fewer. TV Rain, for instance, has about 2.3 million viewers. That is not much in a nation of 170 million.
The key to Mr. Putin's success here is the foreign agent law passed in 2012. Historian and author Ilya Yablokov wrote in the New York Times this morning, "Through the 'foreign agent law,' introduced in 2012 and initially aimed at foreign-funded media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, the Kremlin has been able to decimate the ranks of independent media. Six outlets were given the designation this year, along with 19 journalists. For the smaller publications, it was the end. Bigger outlets, including Meduza, are scrapping for survival."
That use of state power extends to preventing opposition leaders and their voters from getting access to the ballot and prevents them from holding rallies and demonstrations. Alexei Navalny, who is the main opposition leader these days, is in prison having survived an assassination attempt by Russian security services. Others have not been allowed to run for office. The Kremlin even took a voting app off the Apple and Google app stores. The app would have helped voters determine how best to vote tactically to prevent United Russia from winning seats.
Mr. Putin will get away with this again, like he has since he came to power. However, he is creating hostilities that may come back to bite him. The Washington Post reported, "Police cordoned off Pushkin Square in central Moscow after Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for protests to 'defend the election' Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin denied Communist Party applications to stage protests Monday, Tuesday or Friday."
"We do not recognize the online voting information from Moscow now, and we will not do so in the future," deputy chairman of the Communist Party's Central Committee, Dmitry Novikov, told a news conference Monday. "The party saw the picture change after the online voting results were added."
This journal has no time for Russia's Communists, but when an authoritarian party allied with Mr. Putin calls him out, one cannot help but wonder what effect this will have in the long run.
Thanks to tinkering with the Russian constitution, Mr. Putin can hold office into 2036. Mr. Putin will almost certainly manage that given his control of the nation. However, he will be 84 by then and will need to have groomed a successor. That is one thing that dictators do not like to do because they become expendable.
He is Russia's answer to France's Louis XV, who said "apres moi, le deluge." After Mr. Putin, Russia will be lucky if what follows is only a flood.
© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.