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
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.