March 02, 2008
Dmitry Medvedev - An Orthodox Christian
The Russian Federation elected a new president. Congrats to Dimitry Medvedev.
The 'western' media do all they can to make this election seem "undemocratic".
I have yet to see any evidence for that claim.
The liberal Guardian did a lot of reporting recently about Russian people who were urged to go to vote or use absentee ballots. The Guardian constructed this as an effort to "rig the vote". If 'get out the vote' efforts are evidence of "rigging" how do U.S. elections appear to you?
Fact is that Putin's policies are very popular with the Russians and they trust his choice for a successor. There isn't much sympathy for any candidate that would be liked by 'the west'.
When commentators write that Putin made Russia less democratic what do they mean by that? When the ever drunk idiot Yeltzin sent tanks to blast the elected parliament "the west" applauded. Democracy?
So now Medvedev gets some 60-70-80% of a vote with a relative low turnout.
Tomorrow 'western' papers will tell us that this in itself is very undemocratic. In the French presidential vote 2002 Jacques Chirac got 82%. Was that also undemocratic? Or was it an expression of poor choices that some democracies tend to produce once a while?
Every 'western' press report tomorrow will of course also include serious and disturbing quotes from Golos functionaries. "The election was rigged", the "media access for candidates was unfair", whatever. But somehow Golos never manages to point to an alternative candidate that would get more than 2% of the votes. Golos, the Russian 'Association for Defense of Voters' Rights', is incidentally financed by USAID, a CIA vehicle.
Another typical media claim is that Medvedev is "little known" and his importance has therefore to be doubted.
Well, guess what, the Russians do know him. Dmitry Medvedev ran Putin's election campaign in 1999 and was his chief of staff. He is the chair of Gazprom's board of directors since 2000 and First Deputy Prime Minister since 2005. He was "Person of the Year" of the Russian equivalent to Time in 2005. The Russians do know him, the lazy 'western' journalists do not and now they blame him for their own ignorance.
Medvedev is a small man, 5'4'' or 162 cm - not the supersized format of a "western" manager. But he is young and a very fit sportsman. People who underestimate him and suspect that he is only a Putin puppet are in for some serious surprises.
There is another very important aspect the media, especially in the U.S., seem not to get. Russia is an Orthodox-Christian country with deep religious roots. Medvedev asked to be and was baptized in 1989 when he was 23 years old. His wife is working in many church projects. The Russian equivalent of Air Force One, the presidential plane, has a prayer room and a precious orthodox bible.
Whoever thinks of attaching the Orthodox-Christian Ukraine or Serbia to the Protestant/Catholic NATO with a purpose of confronting Russia should better rethink this and take a new look at the deep tribal/religious roots involved here.
Medvedev is a capable industry manager in the 'western' sense. At the same time Medvedev is now the leader of the Orthodox-Christian realm. He and the Russian voters and the Orthodox-Christian people elsewhere are aware of this. The 'west' is not.
How much violence will it take for the 'west' to understand this?
Posted by b on March 2, 2008 at 04:57 PM | Permalink
Let's just hope he's as effective as a counterweight to us as Putin was.
Posted by: ...---... | Mar 2, 2008 7:12:59 PM | 1
BBC NEWS | Europe | Medvedev set to win Russia poll
Mr Medvedev was leading with 69% of the vote with more than 70% of ballots counted, the Russian election commission reports.
Such a result would hand Mr Medvedev the election outright, without the need for a second round.
His nearest rival was Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, on nearly 20%. He vowed to go to court over alleged fraud, Itar-Tass news agency reports.
Funny how the western media tends to give more space to the communist partys fraud charges these days. You know, when Jeltsin - a president that had shelled the parliament, presided over a huge economic crisis and generally was considered something of the worst to happen to Russia - was up for re-election in 1996, the communist party also claimed fraud. Actually I think they claimed massive fraud and that Zyuganov was the real winner. West however, ordered the observers to report a fair election (some observers had problems with Chechen villages voting 100% Jeltsin, they must have failed to understand the gratitude of the chechens).
I suspect the communist party was right then and is right now. Once the system of election tampering is established it is so tempting to use. Medvedev would have won anyway, but it is always good with a strong mandate - something Bush masters learned after 2000 and used efficiently in 2004.
Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 2, 2008 7:52:12 PM | 2
Are we forgetting the thuggery of Putin's rise to power? The systematic buy-out and subjugation of the press by businesses that served the state to that end? Are we forgetting the secret services having a hand in some terror attacks against Russians. Do we forget that Politkovskaya was poisoned first and at a later time shot dead on the doorstep of her apartment?
Is it possible we don't remember that only pissants and the politically marginalized are even on the ballot, and the serious contenders have been disqualified? Has it been incorrectly reported that the dissenting press is on the order of magnitude of Novaya Gazeta, a periodical with approximately the circulation of The Nation in the US? Are we misinformed that workers are ordered to vote on peril of losing their employment?
There seems to be some sugar-coating here of Putin's regime and his political machinations.
Posted by: Copeland | Mar 2, 2008 11:35:00 PM | 3
So what is the "the thuggery of Putins rise to power"? He was reelected with 70%+ in 2004 in quite fair elections. (Compare that with a Florida recount and see what was more undemocratic). Secret service with a hand in terror attacks ... do we know? Anthrax anyone? Politkovskaya was investigating the Chechnian warlord/mafia scene when she got killed. Is there any reason to believe Putin was behind it instead of the folks she was investigating?
Who was the serious contender disqualified in the election? Kasparov, the neocon darling, Yeltsin supporter and member of (pdf) the U.S. neocon Center of Security Policy? 2% max is what he would have gotton and he wasn't even disqualified but simply didn't run. Novaya Gazeta was first financed by Gorbachow and is now owned by tychoon Lebedev ($3.5. billion owning thug and member of the Duma(!)). It is still printed and distributed just like The Nation. Workers ordered to vote? Yeah, some stupid manager taking GOTW too far. Can you point to any worker who was told WHAT to vote for?
I certainly know that Russia isn't an ideal Democracy and there are many machinations one does not like. But the "accounts" in the western press are laughable.
Any Russian I meet despises Gorbachow and Yeltsin and is fine with Putin. They don't love him but agree to his general course. So what's the problem with that?
Posted by: b | Mar 3, 2008 12:56:55 AM | 4
Democratic in the sense that the Iranian elections were democratic: just as the Iranian religious leaders disqualified candidates who did not meet thier standards, the Russian authorities derailed any candidates who did not meet their standard, which was, in a word, any candidate who might have threatened Putin's chosen successor.
America does not have a board of religious leaders, it just has a committe of Big Campaign Spenders who withhold their blessings on any who do not promise to deliver.
Posted by: ralphieboy | Mar 3, 2008 1:41:32 AM | 5
So utterly predictable:
Putin Aide Secures His Victory in Russian Vote
With 98.78 percent the vote counted on Monday morning, Mr. Medvedev, of the United Russia Party, had 70.21 percent of the vote, followed by Gennadi A. Zyuganov, of the Communist Party, with 17.77 percent. Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, an ultranationalist who leads the Liberal Democratic Party, received 9.37 percent, and Andrei V. Bogdanov, a little-known candidate whose Democratic Party is considered a creation of the Kremlin, had 1.29 percent.
Officials said turnout was 69.61 percent.
Mr. Medvedev declined to debate his opponents, and his campaign was conducted largely through staged public events that were widely broadcast on the Kremlin-controlled television networks. His opponents on the ballot received far less coverage.
Golos, a Russian nonprofit voting-rights watchdog, criticized the voting. “There has been intimidation, people have been forced to take absentee ballots and vote at their work places,” said Lilia Shibanova, the group’s executive director. “It has been done exactly the same way it was during the parliamentary election. It has already become the norm, unfortunately.”
Tomorrow in the NYT, how shunning Ron Paul, Kucinich and Gavel from the TV debates constitutes democracy.
And reread the headline. Did they ever refer to Al Gore as "a Clinton aide"
Posted by: b | Mar 3, 2008 3:39:19 AM | 6
Moscow Times: Complaints of Fraud, Bribery and Pressure
Voters and opposition parties complained of ballot stuffing, bribery and intimidation in Sunday's presidential election, in which Kremlin-backed candidate Dmitry Medvedev appeared set for a landslide victory.
Golos, the only independent Russian monitoring group, said that a majority of the violations occurred not at the ballot box, but rather in the run-up to the election and during the tallying of votes.
Authorities, meanwhile, either denied any voting irregularities or dismissed them as negligible.
Western election observers reached Sunday said they did not see any blatant violations.
"There does not seem to be any voter intimidation," Nigel Evans, a British parliamentarian, said after visiting eight polling stations in Moscow.
Evans is one of a 23-member mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the only regular Western observation team that came to monitor Sunday's election.
Posted by: b | Mar 3, 2008 5:16:28 AM | 7
Will Russia be sending election observers in November?
Posted by: DM | Mar 3, 2008 6:15:37 AM | 8
What the US media don’t reveal is that Russian politics (parties, leaders, votes) is no different from the Bush, Clinton dynasties that ‘rule’ the US.
The Russians vote for stability, for leadership they consider stellar, acceptable, or immovable, inevitable, a bad choice, but the only one going.
The vote is an imposed modern habit, a charade, a ritual.
The Americans like to pretend that their democracy functions as ppl are asked to judge personal characteristics of the Supremo Leader - being experienced, blond, or black and young, fat or thin, and for all I know, liking Sushi or rock, or not.
That expensive jamboree implies another kind of control - the illusion of choice without any. The low key acceptance of the Russians is more reasonable than the year long hype of the US Pres. elections, imho. Less tiresome, wearing.
Putin controls the TV - state media, with an iron, and maybe murderous, fist. Not the newspapers, or not much, not closely, and the internet, not at all. Free speech, whatever that is, is alive in Russia. In the US, the picture is similar but yet different. TV is controlled, thru self censorship, total alliance to power, no direct intervention is needed. The tv media are part of the Gvmt, without that relation being official or overt or coerced in any way. Newspapers are also self muzzled. The internet is not censored for the moment.
Posted by: Tangerine | Mar 3, 2008 9:31:11 AM | 9
Russian university that advised on election monitoring closed as fire risk
The European University at St Petersburg has been forced to suspend teaching after officials claimed its historic buildings were a fire risk. On Friday a court ordered that all academic work cease.
Academics at the university today said the move was politically motivated, and that it followed a row last year over a programme funded by the European commission to improve monitoring of Russian elections.
The university accepted a three-year, €673,000 EU grant to run a project advising Russia's political parties. The programme instructed parties on how to ensure elections in Russia were not rigged.
Posted by: DharmaBum | Mar 3, 2008 11:26:19 AM | 10
The Russians despise Gorbachev en masse? I lived there for five years and never got that impression. He was unpopular amongst some of the intelligentsia, but they had a tendancy to denigrate everyone. For the most part, regular Russians would just mock him for his atrocious accent and speaking style. I suppose they could have all learned to hate him since I left...
Posted by: aubanel | Mar 3, 2008 1:41:26 PM | 11
@aubanel - The Russians despise Gorbachev en masse?
From what I hear from the expats here and from what I read this became virulent only in the last few years when NATO encrouched into the Russian borderlands.
Gorbachev dissolved the USSR and did get VERBAL ensurances that NATO would not expand. Of course NATO didn't stick to its words. Gorbi simple didn't do his job. Now people know and they hate it.
That is what I am told and read.
Posted by: b | Mar 3, 2008 3:48:03 PM | 12
The systematic marginalization of potential opponents to Putin has been in the works since his reign began. With the secret services firmly behind him and financial favors in hand to be dispensed, he has buttered and threatened his way to power. Getting the Duma in lockstep behind him, driving independent media out of business, and driving serious opponents from the arena. Yeltsin was coarse and a drunk; but when he began the first Chechen war, Russia still had a talented, vibrant, exceptionally serious press. There are lackeys now under Putin, who control information.
After I addressed my comment to b, in number 3, above, I read back over what I had written and I reflected upon parallels to the present administration in my country, the US. Both Russians and Americans seem to have made unfortunate trade-offs against their liberties. The Cold War left one collapsed empire and another empire on its last legs.
Putin got rid of the regional governors and the election process that gave their regional administration legitimacy.
Now Medvedev will fit like a pair of gloves on Putin's muscular hands. The real power is in the control of the Security State. Goverment offices. the Duma, the justices and procurators, have become window dressing.
The assassination of Politkovskaya is connected as much to her tireless investigation into the siege of the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow, in 2002, as to her digging into the crimes of Chechen warlords (some of whom are beholden to Putin). The relatives of the victims of the Moscow theatre atrocity have demanded, but never obtained, cooperation from the state to investigate the deaths of so many of the hostages, who died from breathing the opiate gas that Russian authorities used to flood the theatre. It has never been explained why authorities took none of the hostage-takers prisoner, but instead carefully identified each one of them at the scene and fired a bullet point-blank into the head of each.
Politkovskaya heard from a few eyewitnesses that some well known state security characters were seen around and inside the theatre just prior to the unfolding of the hostage incident. From reading Politkovskaya's book, Russian Diary, this is not the only incident in which she suspected Security State complicity in "terrorist" acts against Russians.
Honestly Bernhard, comparing Putin's democratic process to France is an absurdity; and the image of a "prayer room" on the Russian President's plane is really just amusing.
Posted by: Copeland | Mar 3, 2008 6:18:21 PM | 13
Speaking about lies, damned lies, and NGO reports, this Russian writer looks into another often reported criticism of Russia - high incidence of murdered journalists. What he finds seems familiar.
Liars Without Borders
Posted by: Alamet | Mar 3, 2008 7:38:06 PM | 14
@Copeland - Honestly Bernhard, comparing Putin's democratic process to France is an absurdity; and the image of a "prayer room" on the Russian President's plane is really just amusing.
On the first issue I certainly don't agree. A system that gives LePen the second place and Sarkosy (an oligarch playchild) the first is certainly not ideal. The Russians seem to believe they got the president they wanted. What do we have to critizise about that?
On the "prayer room" - You seem not to be aware how important the orthodox church is now again in Russia. What do you think Serbia and Kosovo are about? Russian support for Serbia certainly has a religious component. To put a prayer room on an official plane after 75 years of ordered secularism is huge in my view (and the pictures released with purpose).
Antiwar take on Medvedev, Hillary, and 'Media Bias'
"Was the Russian election any less free than our own?"
Posted by: b | Mar 5, 2008 1:06:23 PM | 15
I have the impression that France has a lower level out vote stealing, disenfranchisement and general thuggery then either the US or Russia. The candidates for top positions are from the elite in either country, but France has more alternative parties so I would guess it is easier there to pull the Overton window for a group of ordinary citizens.
All in all I would say France is more democratic then either Russia or the US, but we are far from any real democracy anywhere (afaik).
Btw, when Putin came to power on a wave of popular support after those terrorist attacks in Moscow, the western media downplayed rumours of black-ops. You know, conspiracy theories. Now that he no longer plays the part of friendly lackey he apparently has become evil, and the same conspiracy theories has become mainstream. Funny how that happens.
Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Mar 5, 2008 1:33:21 PM | 16
Well Bernhard it was the implication of Putin's piety as a good Christian man that made the "prayer room" on the presidential plane seem amusing to me. He must have flipped through the Bible several times while he was laying waste to Chechnya.
Now Sarkozy may fit classical definition of a "running dog of imperialism", and he may be a rancid little lackey and a political opportunist, but he was elected fair and square. He is not, however, a KGB man's KGB man. He has not laid waste to one of the provinces of his own country. He and his offices have not bureacratically defeated murder inquiries, given procurators and judges instructions of how they should behave in the matter of cases brought before them. Let's give European democracy a little credit. Sarkozy is not that imposing (are there shirtless, muscle flexing photos of him?); he is not the focus of a cult of personality; and I expect that when he leaves office, he will not continue to rule France through a proxy.
And Raimondo's piece tries to squeeze the reader into a tedious Cold War narrative, that we know by heart. But the narrative ignores the facts on the ground, that took place while Putin was building up his base of political power. It is dishonest of the writer not to at some point remind his readers, that when Putin was shunting aside political opposition, centralizing political control, and systematically neutralizing all criticism of the president, there was a blackout of this news in the US. Putin was Bush's pal, a partner in the War on Terror.
The new Cold Warriors are on the warpath, intent on restarting a conflict that ended in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The propaganda offensive against Putin's Russia – launched, as per usual, by the neocons, and since taken up by left-liberals – is in full swing. Putin is routinely compared to Stalin,
Well who the fuck would have imagined neocons and "left-liberals" would be on the same side on this? It's Russophobia, I tell you!
Incidently, in her Russian Diary, Politkovskaya wrote about how the new history texts for Russian schools, issued under Putin, were portraying Stalin in a more favorable light.
Posted by: Copeland | Mar 6, 2008 1:21:08 AM | 17
it was the implication of Putin's piety as a good Christian man that made the "prayer room" on the presidential plane seem amusing to me
I never implicated that for Putin (he is secular as far as I know) but for Medvedev. That was the "religion" point in my above post which you might want to read. That and how Russia is now turning back to its old roots of religion. Medvedev might push that further.
I stick to my opinion that Putin, bad as he was, was the best leader that happened to most Russians for about a hundred years, if not longer. After the Yelzin trainwreak catastrophy he managed to put the country on the rails again. Somehow the Russians seem to agree with me on this.
When Putin replaced the election of province governours with Moscow controlled positions he removed a big part of what was corrupt in Russia (the governours were mostly thugs, the votes bought). The Russians agreed with that move, the "west" screamed "dictatorship".
There is still a lot to do to repair Russia, but Russia will likely stay more authoritarian than we may like for quite some time. It's a historic issue and a patriachaic mentality well framed in the lectures of orthodox christianity.
As for Sarkozy, lets see:
On media influence in elections (something that Putin is blamed for) you may want to read CSM's piece on Sarkozy's tight circle of media friends
The concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few well-connected industrialists has been building for years. But the circles of influence, wealth, and political power have converged to an unusual degree in Mr. Sarkozy's France. This month, the country's richest man, who was also the best man at the president's wedding 11 years ago, is negotiating to buy France's leading financial newspaper, Les Échos.
Some of the conservative new president's closest pals already own the country's largest national newspapers and television stations – a cozy relationship that many journalists consider a threat to their independence.
Photos embarrassing to Sarkozy have been suppressed, and unflattering articles pulled before publication. Sarkozy has denied meddling, but whether they were prompted by direct interference from above or self-censorship on the part of overly cautious editors, the incidents have set off newsroom protests. It was exactly an artificial cult of personality that brought Sarkozy into the job.
Oh, and Sarkosy is trying to influence history teaching: Sarkozy
Pupils will be 'twinned' with Nazi victims
President Nicolas Sarkozy has provoked controversy by ordering that every 10-year-old in France should know the name and life story of a French-Jewish child who died in the Holocaust.
Even some Jewish leaders and writers fear the idea is "exceptionally morbid" and could provoke an anti-Semitic backlash. MPs have complained that M. Sarkozy is trying to micro-manage the national curriculum and impose too emotive an approach on the learning of history.
Concentrated government - well Sarkozy can do little there. France already has a highly concentrated government.
Sarkozy has not yet had time to start a war, but he is preparing for one: UAE signs military base, nuclear deals on Sarkozy visit
A defence agreement inked during the visit to Abu Dhabi calls for 400 to 500 French army, navy and air force personnel to be stationed at the base, said vice admiral Jacques Mazars, who negotiated the deal for France.
What for, if not for war:
"The base will be permanent. It will be the first such French base in the Gulf and it will face the Strait of Hormuz," the strategic waterway through which much of the world's oil supplies pass, a French presidential source said.
Iran risks attack over atomic push, French president says
Sarkozy talks of bombing if Iran gets nuclear arms
Insert choice quote from Bernard "war without borders" Kouchner here.
But yes, the "west" is good and Putin is bad and when we all believe that things will be fine ...
Posted by: b | Mar 6, 2008 3:08:39 AM | 18