Note to dictators: If you’re going to have fraudulent elections, at least make sure that you win them outright. Coming in with a plurality rather than a massive majority is just pathetic. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who is planning to make another bid to become the president of Russia again in 2012, is in some hot water. His own political movement, United Russia, is widely believed to have engaged in voter fraud on a massive scale in the parliamentary elections staged this past Sunday. The kicker: they took less than 50% of the vote.
Russians have struck an implicit bargain with Putin: deliver strong economic growth, and we won’t make too much of a stink about how you do it. That bargain is beginning to fray. With growth coming in well below what Russians would like, in conjunction with corruption endemic to the country, the Russians are beginning to get restless. In the wake of the allegations concerning the vote fraud, demonstrators took to Moscow’s central Red Square, numbering 5,000 in all. For a normally highly apathetic population when it comes to politics, this is a substantial number indeed. And what looked like a perfunctory upcoming election/rubber stamping of another Putin administration is suddenly looking much more uncertain.
Predicting politics is messy. Predicting events in Russia is notoriously difficult. Combine the two, and you have a near insurmountable task. But the conventional wisdom that Putin is going to be the next President of Russia has suddenly been thrown into question by the events of this weekend.