Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Russia Party easily won sixty percent of the seats up for election in that country’s Duma. The results were hardly a surprise as Putin, an ex-KGB agent, and his party regularly disrupted opposition rally’s, arresting and beating opposition leaders such as chess champion Gary Kasparov, closed opposing newspapers and rafio stations and generally ran roughshod over the civil liberties of anyone who tried to mount a challenge to his authority. Good times.
Echoing George W. Bush’s words in 2004, Mr. Putin has said that a strong showing in this past weekend’s election would give him a “moral mandate” to continue to dismantle Russia’s fragile democratic system and replace it with a Bush-style autocracy, except in his case Putin plans to actually keep that autocratic power in his own hands rather than pass it off to his Vice President, as Mr. Bush has. Plus, given Russia’s newfound oil wealth, Mr. Putin has a whole lot more than just some measly political capital to spend on things like tanks, fighter and bomber aircraft and lots of other cool stuff.
The victory also puts Mr. Putin in a position to take his choice of posts after his Presidency ends- Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Chief of the Kremlin Security Council, Grand Poobah or Leader and Chief of the Celestial Chorus-the possibilities are endless. What is certain is that for the next decade or so it’ll be pretty easy to spell the name of the real leader of Russia.
And while this reporter would never want the people who slipped Alexander Litvinenko a radioactive dose of thallium ala’ mode to think he disagreed with anything Mr. Putin does, one must wonder if perhaps the Russian President isn’t finding democracy to be, well, just not all it’s cracked up to be. After all, half of America is a Red State; there’s really no reason to not to think Mr. Putin would like all Russia to trend that way as well.