Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fiction is taking a walk

Um, OK. This was beyond even my powers of prediction, mostly because it's so brazen as to be inconceivable.

President Putin is running for parliament.

He's Number One in the incumbent party's election list, with the intention of taking the prime minister's spot once his second presidential term runs out next spring.

I honestly don't know how to comment this. It's a move that I'd expect to see in Central America, or maybe a small Asian country like Nepal or Bangladesh (turns out Bangladesh is a republic, with 150 million people; holy shit). I'd said that they don't even seem to be bothering to lie any more, not even to keep up appearances. I didn't expect this, though.

Inconceivable!

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posted by Flasher T at

29 Comments:

Blogger Giustino said...

Does this make Putin appear more clever or less clever in your book?

9:38 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

Oh, there's no question that Putin is a very clever man. This... it's definitely a workable strategy in Russia right now. The problem is that it completely disregards any keeping up of appearances. It makes clear to anyone but absolute morons (I'm sure you can find some in Lucas's comment section) that Putin is an authoritarian dictator in Russia that does not really care about things so trivial as laws (even if this is technically legal).

This is a problem because it presents a question of "what next". I don't want to get into Laar-esque fear mongering, but this entire thing does begin to look disturbingly like 1939 - down to the tenuous alliance between Russia and Germany.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Giustino said...

This is a problem because it presents a question of "what next". I don't want to get into Laar-esque fear mongering, but this entire thing does begin to look disturbingly like 1939 - down to the tenuous alliance between Russia and Germany.

Exactamundo, Flasher T. Believe it or not, Putin will not [politically] live forever. If Russia had a democracy, there would be a peaceful contest for power.

But once Putin sets up this precedent, it means power will have to be taken with tanks -- or by a dreaded "color" revoution -- though I am sure Russians would prefer real revolution to colo revolution.

It won't happen while the petrodollars are pouring in, but how else does regime change happen in undemocratic states?

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bangladesh is not a monarchy.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

Huh. Wonder what I was thinking of. Good for them, I guess.

Giustino, good point about the petrodollars, will make another post.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And at something like 140 million people it's not small either (albeit, crammed into an area only slightly larger than Estonia).

Anyway, carry on!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Nothing is Free said...

If Putin's goal is to remain in power, and yet he does not care what the world thinks, then he is going through too much trouble. All he has to do is click his fingers, and the parliament will rubber stamp any changes to the constitution. He can remove the limit on the number of terms, extend the terms from 4 to 5, even 7 years, etc..

Personally, I think he's merely trying to endorse the new CPSU to make certain they have an absolute majority in parliament.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not much in the political science but your last comment on this page made me laugh the most. You pieced together all sorts of Western phobies and cliches about Russia. "Wow what a surprise! Russia is not a democracy. We have long suspected this." One can weigh them by tonns of paper. You haven't gone any further. The best Russia in the eyes of the West is the one that agrees to everything however stupid, hypocrite or losing that might be. Iraq is just the last case. While I am certainly not a fan of Mr. Putin the western hypocrisy make me more sick. Tanks? Give me a break. It is not productive to look into the rear view mirror, pals. Some Estonian practices don't make me feel any better. Vlado. Tallinn/Moscow.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Nothing is Free said...

get back to your nochnoy dozor russkie.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

While I am certainly not a fan of Mr. Putin the western hypocrisy make me more sick. Tanks? Give me a break.

How else do undemocratic regimes change leaderships? Do we expect that Putin will at some point get tired of being leader and just hand it over to someone else? Or will another power force him out? And how so?

There's the Georgia 2003 model and, say, the Brazil 1964 model. Or are we aiming for the China 1997 model?

A serious response would be appreciated. I don't pretend to know everything. I enjoy reading other people's views.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Giustino! First of all let me note that Mr. Putin is democratically elected President. You might rightly notice that he had closed down the only opposition TV network, hunted down some unloyal financial and political interests and put the puppet hierarcy in place. While the whole construction stinks it couldn't have been made possible without the massive support of the public and elite. As a westerner (please don't confuse with Clint Eastwood) I don't like the actual state of affairs but as democrat I can not ignore the will of one hundred million people (my guesstimate). I beleive that this shift is down to the realization of the self-interests and self-identification in the world. (Please don't be in hurry to accuse me in the Russian Imperialism. Just name me who is not after one's interests) This newly-found awareness is very well exploited by Vladimir Putin. Many of you here talking about the termination of Putin's tenure imply first of all the end of the aggressive foreign policy held lately. But be carefull what you wish for. The most probable (some days ago) would-be heir Mr. IVANov is hardly a dove. For example he was the one who called for boycotting of everything bearing Estonia. Vlado.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

N-4-3! Those ways of integration of yours!

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vlado

10:30 PM  
Blogger Nothing is Free said...

Anonymous nashists:

Please do something productive with your lives. I suggest suicide.

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wait a little bit longer fella! Vlado.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Giustino said...

Many of you here talking about the termination of Putin's tenure imply first of all the end of the aggressive foreign policy held lately.

I am thinking more long term. Putin may not be a threat to Europe, but his successor may be. And if he creates a system of government where there are no checks, then who is to stop Leader X from pursuing an anti-European foreign policy when he somehow assumes the reins of leadership in X number of years?

Putin will not live (politically) forever. No one ever does.

But be carefull what you wish for. The most probable (some days ago) would-be heir Mr. IVANov is hardly a dove. For example he was the one who called for boycotting of everything bearing Estonia.

Putin has a personal grudge against Estonia because his father was part of the destructive battalions here.
Admitting their crimes in Estonia, or even softening the rhetoric, would be anathema to his being.

Ivanov has at least met with the Estonian President in the past, under different circumstances. I don't think they'd get on, but the fact that they haven't even visited one of the Baltic States since 1991 is a tad mysterious. I mean, how many times has Putin traveled to Finland in the past two years?

My main concern with Ivanov is that he would be less able to cultivate the cult of machismo to remain in power for very long. And that would mean a challenge of power. And since such issues aren't resolved by elections in Russia, they'd be resolved by some back door discussions where the men in charge figure something else out.

See, in the US I know that my next president is going to be either Clinton or Giuliani or Romney or Obama. In the Russian Federation you never know. It's always a big surprise. Although not for Flasher T. He has ESP.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

Hey, even I didn't know who Zubkov was. :)

And yes, Putin was elected by the will of the majority, and I'll even concede that the majority wants hims to stay in charge past the end of the term. That doesn't mean it's healthy, though. Not for Russia's neighbors, and certainly not for Russia itself.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Nothing is Free said...

I am thinking more long term. Putin may not be a threat to Europe, but his successor may be.

Damn right. We've gotta nip it in the bud, like we did with Saddam.

And yes, Putin was elected by the will of the majority, and I'll even concede that the majority wants hims to stay in charge past the end of the term. That doesn't mean it's healthy

Hitler was democratically elected too. So was Ahmajje... too hard to spell.. the Iranian Hitler. The natives don't have a mature political culture. We must help them.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On one side Putin PM was a major upset to me but on the flip side he will hopefully reap what he had sown. And it may lay ground to the comeback of the liberal wing in the Russian politics. The system of checks results from the society's intrinsic values that can't be built overnight and will take a generation or so. Though the trend is not supportive of jour jitters about the messy outcome at the turning points. The power transition was pretty smooth in the last two decades even with the all sorts of interests involved. The things were not always nice in the US history when one digs deeper. And after all years the US is yet to elect the one who is not white, male and christian. As for Estonia I don't think she felt any kind of Putin's grudge (save his press-confernce mockery) until April 2007. Why even bother to visit the Baltics at all? It is hostile to Russia and totally under the US influence? Vlado

7:04 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

This post has been removed by the author.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

The things were not always nice in the US history when one digs deeper. And after all years the US is yet to elect the one who is not white, male and christian.

But we always had more than one party contesting power. The Putin form of government (one party) lasted only through Washington's term, then came apart in the "Revolution of 1800" with the birth of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties. And there was no "Oh wait, we have to grow the middle class first, then we can have democracy."

Why even bother to visit the Baltics at all? It is hostile to Russia and totally under the US influence? Vlado

Did any one in Estonia ever attack the Russian ambassador here?

Did any one in Estonia ever vandalize the Russian embassy, attack the car of the Russian ambassador?

Did any one in Estonia ever organize a summer camp with photos of Putin and Lavrov with Hitler mustaches?

Does anyone in Estonia insultingly deny the past about Russia, tell them that there were no gulags, that it's all "rewriting history'?

Estonia is as under US influence as Iceland, Denmark, or Norway. Once Russia begins to see Estonia as just another Iceland, Denmark, or Norway, then they will have an easier time 'getting' Estonia.

Norway also borders Russia, in fact Norway poses a greater threat to Russian energy interests in the arctic and for its arctic fleet harbored at Murmansk. Yet I never hear the Russians opining about how Norway is under Uncle Sam's thumb. They wouldn't dare. Because they treat the Norwegians as equals, and the Estonians as former slaves.

My main point though, is not that Putin is the new Hitler. It's just that one-party government makes a state weak. And by shutting down and marginalizing the political opposition and independent media, Russia is a weaker country, not stronger as some claim it to be.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gustino That is exactly the point! Putin is not Hitler but his policies pose the threat to Russia itself with those clowns in the politics. It relates to the embassy mess, summer camps etc. Your American history analogy is accepted as that is one of the reason you are still the only one remaining superpower. But believe or not few people in Russia care about Estonia at all. They don't even know what is going out there. Estonia will be forgotten soon and left to the politicians. Whether you like it or not this master-slave rethoric will be put aside. Just look at Latvia. Otherwise Estonia will underperform its neighbors economically. Vlado.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

Your American history analogy is accepted as that is one of the reason you are still the only one remaining superpower.

The US also happens to neighbor a country that had a one party system for 80 years: Mexico. I noticed the difference each time I visited it.

But believe or not few people in Russia care about Estonia at all. They don't even know what is going out there.

I think it's rather mutual. Estonia in some ways is an 'island nation'. Russia is across a great lake. Sweden is across a sea. Finland is across a gulf. And Latvia? Well, it's a long bus ride.

6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giustino tell me about it. Just count the word Venemaa usage in Estonia mass media. Vlado

7:35 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

This post has been removed by the author.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

Count the words Rootsi and Soome too. Venemaa is interesting from one perspective: security. Whenever people think about Venemaa it is within the vein of "I hope they don't decide to come kill us all (again)". They might not admit as much, but it's there. It's embedded in the national psyche. Beyond security, interest is not that strong.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giustino! I am beginning to have doubts in your ability to count. Open delfi.ee right now and take a look at maailm column. Ciao. Vlado.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

Vlado,

Here you go:

Politkovskaja mõrva aastapäev (6)

(Russia)

Taanis arreteeriti sadu meeleavaldajaid (25)

(Denmark)

Suursaadik lubas Lugovoi Londonisse sõidutada (6)

(Russia, UK)

Endisest Vene peaministrist sai luurejuht (8)

(Russia)

Võimas taifuun rüüstab Taiwani (6)

(Taiwan)

Putin jõuab teatrilavale (13)

(Russia)

Fujimori astub novembris kohtu ette
Van der Linden nõuab Venemaalt tõde (68)

(Europe, Russia)

Soome on elamiseks maailma parim riik (110)

(Finland)

Äraspidi Nobeli preemia homopommile (6)


Hiigeltrahv muusika eest arvutis (53)

Gruusia opositsioon ei taha presidenti (10)

(Georgia)

And now the top stories in the 'ulkomaat' section of Helsingi Sanomat:

Viisisataa kokoontui oppositiomielenosoitukseen Moskovassa

(Russia)

Moskovan Puškinin aukiolle ja sen ympäristöön saapui iltapäivällä viisisataa Erimielisten marssimielenosoitukseen osallistujaa.

(Russia)

Putin-nuoret juhlivat presidentin syntymäpäivää

(Russia)

Anna Politkovskaja murhattiin vuosi sitten

(Russia)

Venäjä pidätti Politkovskajaa tukevia aktivisteja

(Russia)

HS 3.10.2007: Venäjän kieltämä Tšetšenia-seura haluaa rekisteröityä Suomessa

(Russia)

There's also stories about Myanmar, Denmark, Taiwan, Iraq, Afghanistan.

And now, Aftonbladet (Sweden):

You don't even need to go to the 'world column', the front page is a picture of Politkovskaja's face.

The second story down is about Skype.

Not only that, but Aftonbladet has its own specialRyssland page.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

I would guess that these stories about Chechnya and Politkovskaja help to bolster the mindset that Russia is an "other" against which "Estonianness" comes into sharp relief. Perhaps it is used similarly throughout Europe, as seen in similar coverage in Finland and Sweden.

Russia may also do the same thing. Look at the coverage of the G8 Protests in Germany. I saw Russian coverage suggesting that they were more violent than they were. Maybe the Bronze Soldier coverage similarly plays into the Russian notion that the West is in chaos, is a sinking ship, but Russia is stable under the strong and knowing hand of Vladimir Putin.

In both cases you see events used to reinforce belief in a system based on the values of that system.

In Putin's Russia, the wildness and anarchy of the Tallinn riots -- which lasted two nights -- caused Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to tell his Finnish colleague that society was disintegrating in Estonia.

But in the West, these kinds of battles between the police happen and are taken care of. They happen in Finland, they are happening in Denmark quite often, they happen in Paris and basically everywhere.

To me, as an American who grew up at the same time as the Crown Heights Riots and the Los Angeles Riots, the Tallinn riots were definitely not a sign that society was disintegrating.

The Russian delegation arriving in Tallinn to see the very important statue thought the government was so weak that they suggested it resign. But in the West, looking tough and lawful earns you brownie points with your voters. The Reform Party's approval rating is still a whopping 42 percent.

So you have the same event interpreted entirely differently because of different world views.

It's the same difference that makes Swedes, Finns, and Estonians cringe at the idea of journalists being assassinated, but Russians mostly shrug. As Putin himself said, she wasn't that important. My friend who lives in St. Petersburg similarly tried to wipe away the criticism by saying that "journalists got killed under Yeltsin too" -- as if it were a totally normal phenomenon in Russia.

3:14 PM  

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