Monday, December 03, 2007

Putin 1, Everyone Else 0

The United Russia party of President Putin has won an easy victory in the country's parliamentary election. It took more than 60 percent of the vote, and only three other parties (the Communists and two separate pro-Kremlin parties) managed to get the 7 percent needed to win any seats at all. Mr Putin has to step down as President in the spring, as his second term comes to an end, but this result makes it certain he'll continue to be Russia's de facto leader - possibly as Prime Minister.

Clearly the election was a joke, and not a particularly funny one at that. In Chechnya, currently led by the pro-Putin Roman Kadyrov, United Russia got 99 percent of the vote, on a turnout of 99 percent. With widespread reports of intimidation and vote-rigging, opposition politician Garry Kasparov got it about right when he said Mr Putin had raped the system.

Whether many ordinary Russians are too bothered about the whole fiasco is less clear. While western politicians tut under their breaths at Vlad for his increasingly bolshy attitude, many of his citizens who remember the old days of the USSR with growing fondness, admire him for giving them back a sense of national pride. No matter how unpopular Mr Putin might be in international capitals, he's here to stay, and western leaders will have to learn to do business with him.

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