It’s probably a record. Vladimir Putin isn’t even certified as the winner of yesterday’s election and he’s already broken a major campaign promise. He said that he would not punish those that protested against him. Yup – that one lasted less than 24 hours after he declared himself the President-elect.
About 20,000 Russians gathered peacefully in downtown Moscow Monday morning to protest an election they consider as corrupt as the December elections that started this protest movement. There is a disparity between the exit polls that showed Putin with less than 50% of the vote, and the partial results that gave him 63%. There are also reports of people being paid to vote multiple times and the usual bundles of ballots stuffed in the boxes, all made out in the same handwriting. International observers noted a lack of real competition and said the vote count was mis-assessed. Tonino Picula, head of the observer mission titled Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said “There was no real competition, and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt. Broadcast media was clearly biased in favor of one candidate and did not provide fair coverage of the other candidates.” Russian observers cited reports of “carousel voting,” where busloads of voters are driven around to vote in multiple precincts.
The Monday rally had received all the proper authorizations, but the police response was violent, and dozens have been arrested, including prominent opposition leaders, including Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party. All of the candidates who did appear on the ballot had been given permission by the government to campaign. It was an easy way to assure weak opposition on the ballot. The largest liberal opposition party, Yabloko, was barred from the election.
About 100 people were also arrested in St. Petersburg. The country is being split by Putin, with the residents of the cities opposing him and the people of the countryside, who have little access or exposure to any ideas not processed through the government, believing Putin’s explanation that the opposition are “stooges” working for Western interests to weaken Russia.
So, we can expect a few more years of beef-cake photos of the way-too-soft “macho” President doing all sorts of “macho” things like horeseback riding, hunting, fishing, retrieving planted artifacts from an underwater site that’s nowhere near any real archeological dig. Speaking of his publicity photos…the opposition might want to look into doing a better job of importing American films and television shows. Flooding Russia with some real beef-cake (top of my list – 300 and Hawaii 5-O) would be a very subtle way to ridicule “President Shirtless.”