February 24, 2004

Putin Boots Kasyanov

The probable has become inexorable. March 14, the date of Russia's Presidential Reelection, will now assuredly cement in place the most significant depluralization of Russian politics since 1989. Putin is expected to get between 70 and 80% of the vote that day -- a number reminiscent of when Brezhnev teetered to the polls.

Meanwhile, there are no checks on executive power. Russia no longer enjoys a Free Press. There is no independent judiciary. The recently elected Duma is a Rubber Stamp for Putin's quasi-party. And there is nothing like a political opposition (Khakamada, Glazyev and other oppositionists running for President are now talking about bowing out of the race, because of egregious electoral practices).

By ousting Kasyanov, Putin is cleaning house of holdovers from The Family -- which held sway under Yeltsin. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of government Putin will propose to his friendly parliament, but all expectations are that it will be heavily weighted down with "silloviki" -- players from the power ministries.

The only possible event that could gum up the works is a low voter turnout on reelection day. the constitution says that, if turnout falls under 50% of registered voters, Putin would not be reelected (no matter what percent he polls) and cannot run again. But you can bet that this will not happen, and that all the "necessary adjustments" will be made. As the Soviet-era quip goes, "What, do you think they let fools into the Party?"

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