The ending words say, United Russia, the Party of Crooks and Thieves.
A radio show announcing the reported election results: United Russia won just under 50% of the vote in Moscow. ‘Do you know anyone who voted for United Russia?’ asked the DJ. ‘Please call in.’ The show was inundated by callers saying they didn’t know anyone who voted for the government party, either. Unofficial exit polls put the vote for United Russia at 20%. On and on, the show went, until someone called in and admitted voting for United Russia. ‘Finally!’ exclaimed the DJ. ‘Are you the only one in the city?’
The official results show Moscow at just under 50% for United Russia.
The official numbers for the city of Moscow show a number of the districts suspiciously close to 50%: 51.08%, 50.95%, 50.30%, as if the officials needed to make sure their party won a majority of the vote. St. Petersburg officials weren’t as careful. The party of Putin polled under 30% of the vote in his home district, Central St. Petersburg.
United Russia had its best showing in the regions with active separatist movements. The Caucasus voted resoundingly for the Kremlin, with war-torn Chechnya leading the way. Somehow, despite years of rebellion against Moscow, every citizen in Chechnya went to the polls and voted 99.5% for the Kremlin party. Their love of their leader was only exceeded by the Libyan’s love of Gaddafi, who used to win by similar landslides. As Stalin once put it, it doesn’t matter how people vote, but who counts the votes.
Voters and volunteer election observers used their cell phones to witness hundreds of incidents of voting fraud --- a crime for which the fine is something like $50. YouTube is full of homemade videos of citizens following buses carrying the party faithful from one polling station to another, of pre-printed ballots, or ballot boxes with broken seals.
United Russia got a majority, but less than the 60% needed to control the Duma. Perhaps, the opposition parties will grow a few spines and start challenging the government. If so, the Russians might be patient while a real democracy is developing.
If not, I can’t see the Russians tolerating another 12 years of the Party of Crooks and Thieves. Nor can I see Putin trusting the democratic process; a true democracy might well ask how much of the country’s wealth he’s stolen. Some estimates but his net worth at four billion US dollars. Nor do the siloviki, bureaucrats and oligarchs supporting him want anyone pushing their noses out of the feeding trough or looking too closely at how they managed to afford their villas in France.
How will Putin handle the transition from being a popular leader to being the chief of a party commonly known as The Party of Crooks and Thieves? Nothing in his background suggests much respect for democracy.
So, while this election could be the start of real reform, I wonder, is this the way repression begins?