Why Putin Will Face More Protests

Source: Getty
Op-Ed The Moscow Times
Summary
There is no reason to believe that the protests and the problems associated with them will end now that the Duma and presidential elections are over.
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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory in Sunday's election means he will return to the Kremlin once again, albeit in far less triumphant fashion than he had imagined in September.

The other four candidates mounted surprisingly passive campaigns. Not only did they take pains to avoid criticizing Putin, but they were careful to maintain a low profile by making few campaign trips and showing little initiative. Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky earned fewer votes than ever in a lackluster campaign where it seemed as if he went out of his way to lose votes.

Nikolay Petrov was the chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Society and Regions Program. Until 2006, he also worked at the Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he started to work in 1982.
Nikolay Petrov
Scholar-in-Residence
Society and Regions Program
Moscow Center
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Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov also failed to impress. He garnered fewer votes and suffered the largest decline in relation to his party's showing in the December State Duma elections than all four other candidates.

Although Mikhail Prokhorov visited five regions — as compared to Putin's 18 — he focused his efforts on the Internet. The Kremlin guessed correctly that Prokhorov's participation would give a degree of novelty and added legitimacy to the presidential election.

Apparently, the methods used to rig elections have changed. The ballot box-stuffing and "carousel" voting, in which groups of people are bused to several polling places to cast multiple votes, have become less effective than before, while the use of administrative resources increased in size.

This was most obvious in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the Kremlin solved the extremely difficult task of raising the number of votes for Putin to match his stronger showing in the regions while minimizing the vote-rigging so as to avoid scandals and protests. This was accomplished by busing in a large number of pro-Putin voters from several regions along with a large number of police and Interior Troops.

Sunday's election also apparently broke a record for the use of absentee ballots. And the wholesale use of "carousels" should logically result in the Central Elections Commission declaring a significantly higher voter turnout than for the Duma elections in December.

If we are witnessing a new side to Putin, it is only in the sense that he worked harder to win this election than he did in previous votes. It would seem that this election marked not so much the start of a new political era as the end of the current one. Putin, Mironov and Zhirinovsky appear to be approaching the end of their political careers. In all likelihood, none of them will take part in the next presidential election — which might be held earlier than 2018.

The Duma and presidential elections are over, but the process of change they have sparked will continue for years. The impetus for that change stems from mass protests over blatant electoral fraud.

What will happen next?

Much depends on how the authorities respond to future political protests and whether they, in response, institute meaningful reforms. There is no reason to believe, as many in the Kremlin do, that the protests and the problems associated with them will end now that the election is over.

The Kremlin has yet to adequately respond to the protesters' demands. This probably means that the protests will increase in size and intensity. What's more, Russians face hikes in their utility bills coupled with cuts to social spending and pensions, despite election promises to the contrary. This alone could be enough to prompt people to take to the streets demanding change.

This article originally appeared in The Moscow Times.

End of document

Comments (1)

 
 
  • Nagesh K Ojha
    “The protests will increase in size and intensity” is a new mantra from political pundits all over the world. In fact, it is good for Russia as well as China. China talks about "orderly protests". However, the psychology of protests does not have links with no more than one or two issues. The protest in itself reflects a reaction against one subject as well as connecting roots with many other dimensions. Therefore, protests or any other kind of [even] peaceful demonstration is not encouraging for Russian or Chinese establishment. If it becomes a regular phenomenon, at any point of time, it may change its course of action, for which many other rival countries are waiting desperately. There is one more [valid] point in my opinion that violent protests against the establishment receive more support and signifies the psychology of protests in resentment as well. The recurrence of street mass political or other linked protests, processions or demonstrations are not good for any government. However, these could be one way to know about the legitimacy of working of any establishment.   

    The most important argument I would like to make that for many of us in a developing world protests either violent or non-violent are not necessarily good for one and all other than the U.S. The simple logic behind the construct is that today America has started not only a different treatment for several nations but also bound to listen many others. Although, this does not sound good to many of us but has a sound reality that the positive impact of Chinese growth and development has compelled the U.S. to think twice before on a variety of actions in the world of diplomatic arena and the same is true with a new resurgence of Russia. If the period of the Cold War was the most peaceful [in one way] its one credit must be given to the Soviet Union that had compelled its rivals to treat their allies friendly and positively rather than only in a dominant manner. Of course, this time China could play that important role [at least] for next two decades for which Russia can play a pivotal role. Therefore, protests in Russia or China are not a matter of delight for developing world; it is rather a matter of serious concern so far as their own development and status in the world politics is concerned.
     
     
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Source http://carnegie.ru/2012/03/05/why-putin-will-face-more-protests/augn

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