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Monday, December 05, 2011

The dangers of incumbency

It seems that it is not just Britain where the burden of incumbency takes it toll on the governing party, though I suspect that the sins of Putin's United Russia party far outweigh anything that may have gone on here or any other western democracy for that matter.

The Independent reports that exit polls cited by Russian state television are showing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party tallying less than 50% of the vote in Russia's parliamentary election:

The results represent a significant drop in support for United Russia compared to the previous election four years ago when it won over 64% of the vote nationwide.

The early returns from today's vote signal it may lose its current two-third majority that allowed it to change the constitution unchallenged.

The drop reflects a sense of disenchantment with Mr Putin's authoritarian course, rampant corruption and the gap between ordinary Russians and the super-rich.

However, any hope that Russian democracy is coming of age must be tempered by this blog. Political developments says that United Russia has no intention of leaving the result to chance:

But how best to fix an election without attracting the attention of international election monitors? Here are United Russia’s top five failsafe methods of getting their vote out:

Bribery: Students in Chelyabinsk were offered concert tickets if they photographed their ballot papers to prove they had voted for United Russia.

Intimidation: Students who resisted bribery were threatened with ‘consequences’.

Threats: An entrepreneur employing 40 people was threatened with a visit from tax inspectors if he refused to help in the elections. Since this would mean either paying a bribe or stopping work, he complied.

Inducements: A paediatrician at a Moscow clinic was asked to vote for United Russia to secure funding for her clinic.

Group Pressure: A civil servant working at Moscow City Hall was told to bring a list of at least 10 friends or acquaintances who had promised to vote for United Russia.

According to the Moscow Times, an election official said, “Everyone is under such stress. I really hope that these elections finish as soon as possible and the way they [the authorities] want.” If all else fails, there’s always good old-fashioned fraud. The official added, “We have been trained how to do it. Foreign observers, who do not speak Russian or understand cyrillic very well, will not notice anything.”

The opinion polls suggest that the Russian people are starting to get wise to this. Whether that will be enough this time is uncertain, but it is a start.
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