Vladimir Putin's Divided Russia

It will come as news to the prime minister that Russia may not endure him forever.

Moscow is not a city of ghosts, but on Saturday, tens of thousands of figures were seen marching in the Russian capital chanting, "We exist! We exist!" That might seem like an exercise in the obvious. But the crowd thought a reminder was in order for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has generally regarded his critics as though they were invisible.

He can see them now. In last week's parliamentary election, his United Russia Party suffered a humiliation, losing 77 of its 315 seats and getting less than a majority of all votes -- down from 64 percent four years ago.

It's embarrassing enough to do poorly in an honest election. Putin's party managed to crater despite vigorous measures to rig the vote. In the province of Chechnya, United Russia somehow garnered 99 percent at the polls.

In the city of Rostov-on-Don, state TV reported its share of the vote at 146 percent.

Putin and his sidekick, President Dmitry Medvedev, defended the integrity of the election, but they were a tiny chorus. Opposition groups posted video of ballot-stuffing and other tactics that would make a Chicago precinct captain smile. One man said he was paid to cast 45 ballots for United Russia.

A Russian election watchdog group, Golos, said United Russia "achieved the majority mandate by falsification." International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found "frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulation."

They reported, "The contest was also slanted in favor of the ruling party, the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels." Oh, in case Putin is reading: They didn't mean that as praise.

When protesters took to the streets, he was reduced to claiming the demonstrations occurred at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She had pronounced the balloting "neither free nor fair" but had never before been known for her ability to incite Russians (or Americans) to rise up against their leaders.

Putin served two four-year terms as president, but the Constitution barred him from a third consecutive term. So in 2008, he traded jobs with Medvedev, whose assignment, ably performed, was to let his patron remain in control. In September, Putin announced he would run for president in March for a six-year term, as the constitution now stipulates.

If things go his way, Putin could stay in power until 2024. By then -- you never know -- he might somehow contrive to stay longer.

But for the first time, things are not going his way. United Russia is now popularly known as "the party of swindlers and thieves." A few weeks ago, appearing at a martial arts match, he was booed on national TV.

The protests in Moscow following the parliamentary election were the biggest of the post-Soviet era -- so big that the police had to refrain from arresting people, and "too large to be edited out of the evening news, which does not normally report on criticism of Putin," said The New York Times.

The outpouring was accompanied by similar rallies in cities across Russia. Putin has managed to prod the various small, diverse opposition factions, from liberals to Communists to right-wing nationalists, into uniting against him.

In the aftermath, billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov announced he would run for president. Such is the strange nature of Russian politics that some experts regard him as a fake opponent inserted to help Putin by siphoning support from real ones.

But the coming election could nonetheless serve to mobilize the opposition. Stephen Sestanovich, the U.S. ambassador-at-large to the former Soviet states in the 1990s, said on the Council on Foreign Relations website that the critics' anger is unlikely to subside because "they have something new to focus on. They are mad and they have a way to express it, which is to get involved and deny Putin a first-ballot victory."

If he were held to less than a majority of the votes, he would have to face a single opponent in a runoff -- in which case things might veer out of his control. Putin enjoyed considerable popularity before the parliamentary elections, but his coarse tactics have doubtless eroded it.

Russians have endured many trials over the past century, including the persistent denial of the right to govern themselves. It will come as news to the prime minister that they may not endure it forever.

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  • NotSure||

    Putin most likely did use underhanded tactics to manipulate the elections. However he probably has the same percentage of people genuinely supporting him (if not more) as any of the Western nations who criticize him and like to believe they have the "will of the people" behind them.

  • Tim||

    Well I can call Obama a douchebag here and the FBI won't hold me down and burn my toes off with a blowtorch.

  • WTF||

    Unless of course you are considered a terrorist, then all bets are off.

  • Tim||

    Terrrorists! They don't deserve toes!

  • Putin knows ITZ COMING||

    PACK UR RICE

    Moscow arms against nuclear attack
    12 July, 2010
    http://rt.com/news/prime-time/.....outskirts/

  • WTF||

    U.S. News:
    1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income.

    Yes, they actually said that in the headline.

  • NotSure||

    Being poor in American probably means not owning your own playstation or having to share a car to work. In many other places it means not knowing where your next meal is coming from.

  • WTF||

    Poor people in America.

  • FSA Footsoldier||

    People ignoring me on their iPhones while the state paid for their food.

    Screw you. The feds paid for my phone.

  • WTF||

    "Cell phones are a human right!"

  • Tim||

    Unless you're in your car, then they're a Federal Offense.

  • ||

    So about 170 million Americans are either poor or "low-income"? Is low-income anyone who makes less than $100,00 a year?

  • WTF||

    I'm guessing they are counting the 50% below the median as 'low income' to generate a stupid headline.

  • Almanian||

    50% of US residents are below the median income? WE NEED A GOVERNMENT PROGRAM TO CORRECT THIS OUTRAGE!!

    If we can put a man on the moon....

  • WTF||

    "Well, if we uh, spread the wealth around, it's better for everyone."

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

    Making almost twice the poverty cut-off is 'low-income'? Weird. I guess.

  • ||

    Credibility. How do you get it?

  • WTF||

    In the province of Chechnya, United Russia somehow garnered 99 percent at the polls.

    In the city of Rostov-on-Don, state TV reported its share of the vote at 146 percent.

    Eric Holder is taking notes.

  • ||

    LOL!Holder and Pukin! Let the election begin!

  • DJF||

    Actually United Russia got 43 percent of the vote in the city of Rostov.

    http://www.vybory.izbirkom.ru/.....4&type=233

  • ||

    Gee DJF don't you understand that it's Russia -- you can make up any number you want?
    You are quite correct that UR got 43% in Rostov but -- hey -- those dumb Russkies got this funny alphabet and like no one can read it. So like we'll just accept the word of some Western MSM weinie who can't read Russian (cus like the weirdsville alphabet).

    And then everybody swallows it down.

  • NotSure||

    Are you trying to win the most mangled website in the world award ? I would certainly award you that prize.

  • Dobby||

    I told Vlad he can't get by forever just on his good looks.

  • Almanian||

    So if Vladimir were dancing on the roof of a hotel, it would be kind of like he was....

    PUTIN ON THE RITZ!

    D'ya GET it? PUTIN on the RITZ! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Morning Reason.

  • WTF||

    I'm picturing Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.

  • Tim||

    Why don't you go where fashion sits?

  • ||

    If I were Putin, that would be my theme song.

  • Almanian||

    "Putin clinging to power"

    Because, of course, no self-respecting Russian (or True Scotsman) would cling to his guns and religion.

    Bit of a culture difference from the US.

  • ||

    Let's just hope the reds don't step in as a major player in the near future. Maybe a LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF RUSSIA will emerge at some point and sweep the country to create a free country (/rofldelusionalmoron)!

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Ha ha, the Libertarian Party of Russia would be one of the most long-suffering political organizations in the world. It would be truly amazing.

  • Bad Pun||

    Citing sources inside the president's administration, Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40bn (£20bn). The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man.

    Putin on the Ritz.

  • ||

    Sounds like that might be a very good plan to me dude, I mean like totally.

    www.AnonWebToolz.tk

  • Colin||

    Considering the other seat-winning parties were the Communists, the Socialists, and the Fascists, I'd say rig away.

    I bet there are lots of Czechs who only wish the 1948 election was rigged. They didn't have another one for 40 years.

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for Aronld, and James Belushi to save the day. " I lost money on Hagler!".

  • first||

    Say hello to Erica F, the very first Portuguese girl to join Team Hegre!

    Erica is what you would describe as a natural blond bombshell. She’s super tight, toned and perky - almost like she has been chiseled out of marble. Erica also has the marvelous quality of being petite but curvy, and it has to be said she has the most incredible ass.

    Erica just loved strutting her stuff in front of the camera and is a natural born poser. Erica is new to erotic modeling but says that she loves the job. Erica also loves dressing in sexy clothes and high heels. She enjoys turning heads wherever she goes. But we are sorry to have to break the bad news to you - this gorgeous girl is already married.

    She may just be starting out but Erica F is sure to go far!

  • ||

    Look for Putin to invite Holder to head the next voter observation group. With his voter verification program, Putin should garner about 15 out of every 10 votes.

  • ||

    It is time to brainwash you. http://out-of-thematrix.blogspot.com

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