Yesterday night, March 4, 2012, tearful Vladimir Putin claimed victory in presidential election in Russia, it’s his third after 2000 and 2004 but he was widely believed to rule the country through his proxy Dmitry Medvedev. Both protested but facts speak otherwise – Putin after getting PM post in 2008 was never threatened in this position, while Medvedev performed largely ceremonial functions.
Last year Medvedev began to speak out on deep rooted problems in Russia and initiated slew of reforms in political and administrative structure but it was rather too little too late. Decentralization of power touted by Medvedev since summer 2011 was struck down in late December by Putin. That was bitter blow to prestige of Medvedev.
Nevertherless puppet president is expected to swap jobs with Putin and become PM of Russia after stepping down from Presidency in May 2012. In the Russian White House (office of the government) he will have plenty opportunities to change dysfunctional Russian system according to his views till he retains confidence of President Putin.
Both rulers have meanwhile more urgent task: how to contain expected protests against Putin’s victory and handle protesters in firm but gentle way, without violence. It’s needed for maintaining international reputation of Russia. Also Putin is waiting for talks with Communist candidate who came distant second, Zyuganov did not recognize Putin’s victory yesterday, but for internal legitimacy it’s necessary condition.
I never voted in my life in Russian presidential elections so I never cheered for anyone and never lamented loss of my favourite.
Yesterday I talked by skype with my mother and friends back home. Mother said she voted for Zyuganov. I reminded her she did not like Communists before, in last decade of Soviet Union there was widespread deficit, she had to find not only cloth, shoes for our family but even food. It was very frustrating time for her which left bitter memories.
Yet now she became more conservative (in Russian sense) and don’t trust Putin’s regime despite gradual increases of pension. $25 addition last month did not persuade her to give vote to Putin. Pittance. Zyuganov despite many flaws and unreformed outlook appeals to many Russians of elder age, he best epitomizes both protest feeling against onslaught of capitalist forces and nostalgy for good fat years in USSR, especially cherished for perceived lack of inner conflicts.
My friend, ex-colleague in Sakha State University where she works as social science researcher, said she voted for Prokhorov. She is middle age like me, has vaguely liberal views and distrusts both Kremlin and local Yakutsk authorities. Her vote for Prokhorov was determined largely by tiredness from Putin and effect of novice. He’s handsome, tall, new kid on the block. But she went to polling booth mostly because of local elections – Yakutians were choosing local mayor. It’s indeed much more important for most people in my town who will handle garbage, repair roads, build new housing blocks etc.
Silence in Vkontakte
Yesterday with help of my forementioned friend I was restored access to my page in Vkontakte, largest Russian social networks. 2 months passed since my password was stolen (yet again) and I needed to get new one via Russian mobile which obviously I didn’t have. Vkontakte is the best way to learn what ordinary Russians do, think, busy with. In the run up to Parliament election in December my cousin sister was actively agitating against Putin and United Russia party, she has 1000s friends whom she tried to convince to vote for other parties.
Now her activity was subdued, I didn’t notice any agitation against or for Putin among my friends and relatives. Impression - people again retreated into apolitical existence. I wondered why and noticed on my nephew's page one picture of Moscow’s neonazi and a veteran of WWII in full regalia. Veteran shocked to see nazi symbols and berates them. I think this picture reveals why people resigned to stay with Putin for six more years – his opponents prove to be dangerous extremists and people naturally were afraid to join protest movement.
This is how Putin has won elections in Russia in 2012.