Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vladimir the Terrible

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A few weeks ago, Russian police broke up a pro-democracy rally in St. Petersburg. The police brutally beat protesters from opposition groups and arrested many of them.

Such is the state of democracy in Russia today.

And it's getting worse.

The Guardian is reporting that Russia's highest court has banned the country's liberal Republican Party, "one of very few left in Russia that criticises President Vladimir Putin". The court held that the party "had violated electoral law by having too few members": "The Kremlin argues that its new electoral law -- which says that all political parties must have 50,000 members and be represented in half of Russia's provinces -- is meant to streamline Russia's untidy political scene," but "critics say the legislation is designed to kill off smaller parties that oppose the Kremlin."

Ed Morrissey predicts what will happen next: "With no opposition left in the Duma,... [Putin] will ask for, and receive, the removal of restrictions that keep him from running for another term of office. Putin will make himself president-for-life and continue eliminating the regional power structures that had acted as a check on federal power... Russian democracy is disappearing before our eyes. It will not be long now before Putin has recreated the Soviet government that he served for so long, within smaller borders. After a season of freedom, political winter once again descends on Russia, and the spring may be long in coming."

I'm not sure if Putin will go so far as to "make himself president-for-life," but otherwise it is certainly true that he is reinstating unabashed authoritarianism in Russia.

Look into his heart. There is tyranny there.


For more, here's The Guardian's "backstory":

Russia's tiny opposition is represented in the current Duma by four or five MPs. Pro-Kremlin parties predominate among the 447 deputies. The small opposition Republican party, banned yesterday, was formed by defectors from the Soviet Communist party. It emerged in 1990 on the wave of liberalism encouraged by then-Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The Republican party has one MP, Vladimir Ryzhkov; its other attempts to win seats have repeatedly failed. But it has played a solid role in the liberal opposition. The liberal Yabloko party also has two MPs. Two other anti-Putin MPs sit as independents. In theory, the opposition includes Russia's Communist party and the far-right Liberal Democratic party. In reality, they rarely if ever voice opposition to the Kremlin, observers point out.

In other words, there is in effect no democracy in Russia. It's all a miserable farce.

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