Saturday, December 17, 2011

Swamped by demonstrations: Keeping up the pressure on Putin

The meeting by Russian liberal party 'Yabloko' (apple) took place yesterday, December 16th, as scheduled on the Swamp Square. The Swamp Square has been the venue last weekend, and the next major demonstration is schedule to take place there again on December 24th. This smaller meeting was attended by several thousand people, and meant to keep up the pressure on Putin ('swamping').
Other groups present yesterday included the 'White Ribbon' (which Putin likened to condoms), Parnas , 'Solidarity', 'Memorial', the Helsinki group, and 'For people's rights'.

The speakers have essential repeated the demands from the big demonstrations that took place last weekend; new and fail elections, and investigation of ballot stuffing. The party 'Yabloko' won 3.43% of national vote, when it needed 5% to send representatives to the Duma (lower house of the Parliament). According to exit polls, they actually earned > 4%. In Moscow, their losses due to fraud might have been particularly large, they officially earned 9% of the vote, but polls indicate the reality was closer to 15%.

Former Russian PM,  Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as prime minister under Mr Putin from 2000-2004, said of Vladimir Putin 'would lose an honest presidential election'. Referring in part to Putin's recent angry responses during the televised 'Direct Line' program, Kasyanov said that Putin is "angry and frightened and has lost his self-control" in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph."Putin understands that social pressure on him is growing all the time. He is nervous.”

Kasyanov's assessment of freedom Russia is honest, and unflattering:“There was never full democracy in Russia but there were at least some attempts to build it. But now there is nothing left.” Kasyano's party was prevented from running in the recent elections by Kremlin based on a technicality. "The elections are not free,” he said. “The collection of signatures rule is a mechanism to prevent independent candidates from running in elections without the Kremlin’s approval." Apparently, this mechanism of control is working well, because it stymied Kasyanov, and Putin recently proposed applying it to elections of governors (whom he currently appoints by executive fiat).

Kasyanov is considering lending his support to Yabloko, whose liberal views are closest to his own. Kasyanov and rejected analogies with Arab spring: "There will be no revolution - as we are committed to only using peaceful methods", but that kicking Putin out of Kremlin will involve a protracted political fight. “If Putin wins an obviously falsified election in March the wave of protests against him will be enormous... and the authorities will no longer be able to rule.”

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