News 31 Jan

The Western media has begun to whine about the Russian presidential elections five weeks in advance. Their beef is that Kasyanov was barred from running, ostensibly because above 5% of his required signatures were rigged, but actually to undercut the last independent candidate – Russia’s last and only hope of salvation from the ‘slippery slope to totalitarianism’ (according to Misha “Two Percent” Kasyanov, anyway).

Nonetheless, let’s apply some common sense. Kasyanov’s level of support is around 1% of the electorate, as even the BBC, grudgingly admits. This means around 1 million people. Are we supposed to believe, then, that below 5% of his supposed 2 million signatures were illegitimate? Or were they much higher than 5%, and much higher even than 13.36% (according to the Electoral Commission)? My opinion is that they simply only bothered discarding the most egregiously falsificated ones – enough to disqualify Kasyanov and reveal him for the corrupt, seditious fraud he is.

Perhaps Westerners may care to consider the reason ‘liberals’ lose in Russia has rather more to do with the liberals themselves rather than Stalin Reborn, aka Putin.

Then there’s the whining over Medvedev refusing to participate in TV debates. In my opinion, when you have an overwhelming lead in approval ratings (around 70-85%), relative to the two other main candidates (10-15%), there is little point in agreeing to debates – which are entirely voluntary affairs. In any case, it is questionable what kind of public good debating with an ultra-nationalist clown (Zhirinovsky), an unreformed Communist (Ziuganov) and a political minnow who makes Ralph Nader seem a celebrity (Bogdanov) is going to serve. As it stands, the other candidates are free to participate on two state-owned channels weekly, and air their grievances – which Ziuganov has been doing a lot of, showing up Western claims that crooks (Kasyanov), neocons (Kasparov) and fascists (Limonov) are the only “real independent” candidates for the claptrap they really are.

As I’ve said repeatedly, Saakashvili is in many ways a mirror image of Putin. From the methods by which he steals elections to renegade oligarch look-alike nemeses. Albeit he probably doesn’t travel as much – Putin managed to visit 64 countries in 190 foreign trips during his Presidency.

On the economic front, an article in JRL argues that Russia still has a great deal of under-utilized capacity in agriculture and forestry – unlike industrial output, they have yet to overtake their Soviet peaks. The state under Medvedev intends to invest in sectors where private business is unwilling to go due to their limited capital, amongst them aerospace, nanotechnology and agriculture. Nonetheless, a boom due to expansion in those sectors, contrary to the article’s assertions, is impossible, considering that agriculture made up just 4.6% of Russia’s GDP in 2007. The ruble is also to become free-floating within the next three years.

More on the theory that Russia will be an island of stability in the coming economic storm, due to its huge foreign currency reserves and isolation from the US. In other news, recent data shows that Russia’s economic growth in 2007, at 8.1%, was even faster than previously thought.

Russia is to stop renting radars abroad due to the unreliability of its “allies”. The Russian Air Force will receive new attack helicopters in 2009.

There are plans to create a national DNA bank.

Sean’s Russia Blog reports that Mercer Human Resource Consulting has ranked Russia’s capital as the most expensive city in the world for the second consecutive year. As is well known, however, that only really applies to Western expats with a fondness for 5-star hotels, lobster and high-class escorts.

India is to celebrate the Year of Russia in 2008, just as China celebrated it in 2007. Ah, the joys of soft power…

  • DJP

    A great article by the typically neo-con influenced Moscow Times. This article truly shows what an amazing job VVP has done:

  • DJP
  • Aleks

    re: Kasyanov affair. The core issue is not Kasyanov himself or whether he had rigged the signatures he had collected. The core issue is the hypocrisy of the powerful. Apparently, the authorities decided to register Andrei Bogdanov, whose party received 0.1 per cent in the last parliamentary elections. Apparently, among 2 million signatures collected by Bogdanov the authorities couldn’t find any errors that would disqualify him as the candidate. That’s the problem in the Kasyanov’s case.

  • Fedia Kriukov

    In fact, the core issue is the signatures, not alleged hypocrisy.The law is clear on this point: no more than 5% of signatures can be invalid. The CEC has demonstrated that significantly more than 5% of Kasyanov’s signatures were invalid. Kasyanov’s people were given every opportunity to disprove that. CEC representetives all but begged them to be present during signature verification, to no avail.No one in their right might (which, of course, doesn’t apply to people who write editorials in western periodicals) would ever argue that Kasyanov should be allowed to run after such massive forgery. If you are concerned about hypocrisy of the CEC, then your argument needs to be in favor of disqualifying Bogdanov.

  • Aleks

    And – guess what? – he should have been disqualified. Setting aside any presumptions about Western media, democracy, etc., one can base the conclusion based purely on the numbers. Can a man in the country dominated by Putin Plan for Medvedev propaganda manage to collect enough signatures to run for the president in such a short time after an utter defeat in the parliamentary elections? That seems to be unlikely. No, I’m not arguing that Kasyanov should be allowed to run. I’m arguing that Bogdanov should not.

  • Fedia Kriukov

    Wonderful. Now if you could only provide some evidence other than your unsubstantiated claims about what’s possible and what’s not, your point might even be taken interview, 23 Jan 08:(Correspondent) You insist that you have collected 2 million signatures, although everyone says that it is unrealistic to collect such a number of signatures in such a short time…(Bogdanov) Because no one did this. The DPR is the only party that registered for all of the regional elections by signatures, and it was the first to register for the elections to the State Duma by signatures. In 10 days, we collected over 300,000 signatures. Why? Because technologically, we were more prepared than all of the others taken together. We began organizing this 2.5 years ago. Despite the fact that we also had experience even before that: In 1993, we collected signatures for the State Duma, and in 1996 the DPR collected signatures for Lebed, for Govorukhin, and for Svyatoslav Federov.For us, signature gathering may not be a snap, but it is rather simple. We only had problems with the cold and snow in Siberia. There were also some teams that did not collect, but falsified, but we have a trained eye.(Correspondent) And how much did the signature gathering cost you? According to the documents, you spent less than a million rubles, while this cost Kasyanov almost R5 million.(Bogdanov) We spent R760,000 and change. This was for notaries and for preparation of printed products. We have long-term agreements with numerous organizers of signature collection, until the end of the campaign. Therefore, for now it is hard to say how much money will be spent. Kasyanov evidently paid only for the signature campaign, but we were sure of ourselves and concluded agreements until the end of the elections.

  • Oleg Nevestin

    Kasyanov, I think, didn’t even plan to run. Why look ridiculous come election time? He wanted to be thrown out, so that later he could tour Western capitals and trade accusations of “creeping totalitarianism” for a pile of dough. It’s just as simple as that. Russian “democrats” turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of money-hungry sellouts. Russian people have figured it out a long time ago – which is one more testament to their innate intelligence. I think this blog deserves a link.

  • stalker

    “I think this blog deserves a link.“It looks like a potentially interesting blog, but it has as of now only 3 posts and its not clear that it will be a Russia/CIS-related blog so I think a link will have to wait for now.