Putin and United Russia

I think it’s high time we checked back in with good old Vladimir Putin, don’t you? After all, Sarah Palin’s a bit too busy lately to keep the Russkies in line, so it’s up to us red-blooded American everymen to stop those damned Commies.

What’s that? They’re not Communist anymore? Propaganda, says I.

In fact, jingoism and smoke-screening appears to still be the standard method of politics in the former Soviet nation, where, although you can now visit a McDonald’s in Moscow, you might not be able to find genuine freedom with a “Made in the USA” tag on the label. Because, just as they were the last time we took a trip to the land of ice and vodka, everything is not kosher.

As you may recall from my last article on Vladdy, in which I compared him to a ninja polar bear, we saw evidence of dirty politics; Putin used forceful campaign tactics, stupidly large amounts of money and potentially rigged elections to ensure that he was the one elected president of a country that he already holds in the palm of his hands. Seems like overkill to this humble author, but hey, it sort of fits with the James Bond villain mystique. And to add to the drama, the people of Russia didn’t take it lying down. Oh no. They got freaking pissed.

Riots, protests and activism reached new levels during election season, and when Putin was declared Victorious Supreme Overlord (or president, I guess), the protests hit a new level. Activists were manhandled by SWAT teams and arrested. The UN threatened to stick their nose in the mess and see if Putin was playing by the rules or not.

Record-holding Judo champion or not, this scared Putin. Presumably a lot, because last week Vladimir announced he was stepping down as party chief of the “United Russia” political party that had helped raise him to such heights. This was probably a smart move, because UR is not really a well-liked bunch of guys. If you want to get a good idea of what United Russia is like, take the GOP, make them effective, and them place them in charge of Russia. A bunch of old, rich vampires, basically.

And in his place, Putin has recommended none other than his long-time lapdog, Dmitry Medvedev. If you’ve forgotten who this guy is already, nobody blames you; from the moment he stepped into the political arena, his job was essentially: “Do whatever Putin tells you to do.” Medvedev was president before Putin, but stepped down as incumbent to give his Sith Lord Master the ruling chair. During his term as puppet-on-a-stick, Medvedev accomplished very little, except for proposition of an amendment to Russian voting laws. One thing led to another, and, oh yeah! The votes were mysteriously skewed in favor of Putin. Weird how things sort of come full circle like that.

Of course, Putin has refused to show any signs of weakness whatsoever; and why should he? He has none. The man is practically bulletproof.

When asked to speak on why he was stepping down as party chief, Vlad did not mention United Russia’s notorious dominating nature, its use of large sums of money to bribe and bully political opponents, or its manipulation of the political process. He did not flinch. He did not even imply that Medvedev was more qualified than he.

No, all Putin said was this: “In line with political practice here, the president stands above parties … a consolidating figure for all political forces in the country.”

So, according to Vladimir, Russian politics consists of fighting factions, bickering bureaucrats and pedantic politicians. But looming above them all, a steely-eyed god immune to any attack, is Vladimir Putin, president-elect.

 

Ryan Cady is a third-year psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.