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Russia: Sham Presidential Election Will Increase Putin's Power
ON 24 February President Vladimir Putin sacked Premier Mikhail Kazyanov and the Russian government with just three weeks to go to his re-election bid for President.
He says it was done so that he can announce who the new government will be, giving voters a clear idea of who they are voting for.
ROB JONES reports from Moscow on Putin's creeping dictatorship.
ON 1 March, Putin appointed Mikhail Fradkov (a loyal bureaucrat for years) in Kazyanov's place. Fradkov has close links to the state security services, a key power block behind the Putin throne. Putin wants someone who will increase the centralisation of state powers and who will carry through capitalist policies.
Some media commentators explain that by getting rid of Kazyanov, Putin has finally drawn the line under the Yeltsin era. But, of course, Putin is himself a consequence of the Yeltsin era.
In the first issue of the CWI's paper, published in the former USSR, in May 1990, we warned that as capitalist restoration would prove incapable of meeting the aspirations of the masses, the ruling elite would move more and more in the direction of Bonapartist [after the 19th century French dictator, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte] dictatorial methods of rule to maintain their power and wealth. Putin is proving to be that very Bonaparte.
The shallowness of Russian democracy is shown by next month's Presidential election. Putin, who is clearly going to get at least 70% of the vote, is refusing to take part in public debates with the other candidates, who are pushed off the airwaves.
Harassment of opposition campaigners is widespread. In Yaraslavl, a new head of the anti-terror squad was appointed, and one of his first acts was to call in CWI activist Sergei Kozlovskii for questioning!
There are seven candidates formally registered for the presidential elections (2 million signatures were needed for each candidate). One of them, Ivan Rybkin, a former Parliamentary speaker, fled to London, from where he claimed he had been kidnapped and drugged in Moscow and taken to Kiev.
Three other candidates, Khakamada, Glazyev and Khariton, the last representing the 'communist party' (CP), are all seriously talking of withdrawing in protest at the lack of democracy.
It is clear that the election will not offer a real choice between candidates but will merely be a chance to approve or disapprove of the current President - in other words it is more of a plebiscite, a favourite tool used by Bonapartists to 'legitimise' their rule.
To ensure the necessary 50% turnout needed to make the presidential election valid, local authority chiefs are instructed to ensure that at least 70% of voters turn out.
ALTHOUGH PUTIN sacked all the government ministers on 24 February, they all remain as "acting ministers" and most will be re-appointed. The new government will ensure that 'reforms' of the tax and banking systems and administrative structures take place.
New tariff agreements with the natural energy monopolies and further deregulation as demanded by the World Trade Organisation, will be pushed through, with little resistance from the pro-Presidential Parliament. These reforms will help to assure Western investors that their money is safe.
During last December's Russian parliamentary elections, millions of working class voters did not bother to vote. This is likely to increase in the forthcoming presidential elections. There is no real opposition to Putin. The CP is on the verge of a major split, and the other opposition parties are in deep crisis. Even the oppositional 'Rodina', that was seen to have done well in last December's parliamentary elections, has now split decisively, with one wing acting as a pro-Putin "Rodina".
It may seem that Putin has succeeded in concentrating all power into his hands, but that will not secure a stable and problem-free future for the ruling elite in Russia. The United Nations predicts a slowdown in Russia's growth.
Sooner or later, working people will be forced into action against the regime. Then Putin and Russia's new capitalists will find they do not have adequate forces to keep the mighty Russian working class held back.
In order for working people to make real change, however, they will have to create a mass party that represents their class interests.
In The Socialist 13 March 2004:
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis