Vladimir Putin, the powerful President of Russian Federation, has given forth that he attached great importance to last Sunday’s Duma Elections. Although his party, United Russia, was expected to get roughly 60 percent of the votes before the parliamentary elections, Putin made anything possible not to waste even one vote. State owned media networks or State-dependent networks broadcasted almost only according to demands of Putin. Although it was Sunday, official holiday, most of the State facilities and civil servants were put into service for Putin’s Party. Kremlin’s authority was in the service of the United Russia. The state support continued during the elections. Though President Putin said the poll was "legitimate" and “a vote of public trust” in him, foreign observers said that Russia’s parliamentary election was not fair. The observers from the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly for instance claimed that the election was not fair and failed to meet many OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections.
As the most important evidence to put the outcome in doubts is the election results of Chechnya, run by pro-Kremlin President Ramzan Kadyrov. In Chechnya, which is the most problematic region in the Federation for Moscow, the percentage of the votes for Putin’s United Russia is 99.4 percent. 99 percent participation was another surprise. Frankly, they are more enviable results even compared with the elections of the Soviet Union period. It is really hard to accept that the polls were fair in at least Chechnya.
The reports of irregularities and violations by independent observers clearly show abuse of administrative resources and that media coverage strongly in favour of the ruling party. Putin, though he knew that his party would have about 60 percent of the votes, needed violations because he gave great importance to the elections. As a matter of fact that Mr. Putin saw the elections as a matter of life and death. The main reason of paying so much attention to this elections for Putin was to transform it a referendum to prove the “Putin’s Russia Leadership”. Before he lives his office Putin by any means whatsoever wants to continue as the only man at the top of Russia and Duma elections to lays the groundwork for this. United Russia’s clear win will enable President Putin to continue wielding great influence in Russian politics, even if he is no longer in high office. Mr Putin announced this year he may seek the office of prime minister after his presidential term ends. It means that Putin will be at the heart of Russian politics in the coming years too and the Duma elections granted needed legislative and political tools for Putin to maintain its power over Russia.
According to the election results, Putin’s United Russia party garnered 64.1 percent of the votes and 315 seats in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. Its means that Putin will have the necessary majority in the parliament to amend the constitution. Apart from Putin’s United Russia Party, the Communist Party received 11.7 percent of the votes and 57 seats in the parliament. Two more parties achieved to enter to the parliament, which are Liberal Democrats and A Fair Russia party making collaboration with Putin.
Putin’s election strategy came in very useful and the public participation to the elections was around 63 percent. The election participation percentage was only 56 percentages in the 2003 Duma elections. It seems that Russians voted for the stability, richness and power. Putin had already been emphasizing the most to risk of possible instability and risk of coming back to the old bad days. Through talking about the miserable conditions of some post-Soviet countries, Putin nearly to make his public squeal of “if you don’t vote for me it will end up bad for you”. By benefiting from the stability and richness trend due to the oil and gas revenues Russians appreciate the major role of Putin in the country’s development. Many experts believe in that money is more important hereafter than democracy for majority of the Russians. And the last elections affirm the experts’ determination to a large extent. Moreover Putin is perceived as a strong man inside and outside by the Russian voters and they are happy with having a respected strong statesman in international arena. As Norman Stone puts it under Putin “Russians feel at last that someone is standing up for them. In the days of Boris Yeltsin, their government seemed to be clownish....It was an era when huge amounts of corrupt money went abroad, when Russian living standards became dismal, when anyone who could, emigrated. The country was treated with scant regard by foreigners...”
Putin is overjoyed for the electoral results. He calls the elections as a “sign of public trust” in him. However, as expected, the opposition is displeased for the results. The leader of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, said that “The elections were so dirty, and the numerous violations were so outrageous, that only a blind or deaf person could not have seen or heard them." Similarly the prominent opposition activist and former chess world champion Garry Kasparov labeled the elections as "the most unfair and dirtiest in the whole history of modern Russia".
Off course the West is looking at the elections from its own aspect. The West is concerning as no pro-Western party couldn’t enter to Duma. It is the reason why the voice of opposition is so heard in the western media. However the Western critics about the Russian elections and Putin are feebler at the state level in the West. The White House draws attention to the unfair election and the Germans are also making the same warnings, but that’s all. Germans for instance declared that ‘strategic partnership’ with Russia will continue after the elections. Everyone in the West knows that hereafter Putin is more powerful in Russia and it is no beneficial for the Western governments to fight explicitly with a strong oil-gas rich leadership., they utter the continuation of their strategic cooperation with Russians.
The unfairness of the elections will be talked a little while but there is no doubt that the Emperor Putin’s way is open. Russia is in his hands…
6 December 2007
Translated by Serpil ACIKALIN and Mine TOPCU (USAK)