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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Shevtsova: Russia is Committing Suicide

Robert Amsterdam reports:

The following is an exclusive translation of an interview with Lilia Shevtsova [pictured] by the German newspaper Die Welt.

Russia is committing suicide claims political analyst Lilia Shevtsova, because Putin is destroying state institutions

DIE WELT: After European observers branded the Duma elections as unfair, they were accused of using their opinion to carry out a “mission from overseas”. What is your view on this?


Lilia Shevtsova: The elections were anything but fair, because the election campaign itself was already unfair. The Kremlin’s United Russia party refused to take part in TV debates. Instead, President Putin and United Russia took over 97 percent of airtime in information programmes shown on national state television. The elections were illegally transformed into a referendum on Putin; the president remained in office even though he was running for the Duma. That is also illegal.

Russian observers also complained of numerous violations of electoral law on polling day...


There were thousands of violations, including the fact that voting by workers was monitored by their bosses. The Golos institute also recorded violations, as did observers from all parties, including those from the Communist Party, which were represented at 70 percent of the polling stations.

Why was that necessary? Were Putin and United Russia not clearly in the lead in the opinion polls?


The Kremlin party would easily have won 30 to 40 percent of the votes anyway. However, an atmosphere of fear and hysteria reigned. Those in power who resort to such measures do not feel secure and do not believe that they have control over the situation. This means that Putin himself doesn’t feel secure and doesn’t believe that he has the situation under control.

What are the consequences for Russia that the election was run in this way?


Here we see a typical “Russian trap.” In order to maintain control over the transfer of power to his successor, Putin has ultimately broken with the constitution. He turned the election into a plebiscite, and that is unconstitutional. By supporting a single party, he destroyed the multi-party system, which though weak still existed.

What was he trying to achieve?


At the end of his period of office as president, Putin wanted to win further legitimacy as a national leader. He has clearly succeeded in this, because the 64 percent who voted for United Russia actually voted for Putin.

However, despite the enormous use of administrative resources, the result still failed to match the almost 72 percent won during the presidential election of 2004. Is it not inappropriate to call this a major victory?


The Kremlin is still presenting it as such. Putin claimed that he was supported by 90 percent of the population, if you count all the votes together. Of course, this is not true, but when this view is broadcast over the national TV channels every hour, it has an effect.

What will Putin make of the “national leader” title?


Putin will float over the country like a [white] cloud - a national leader who is nowhere mentioned in the constitution.

Will the constitution continue to exist?


What we are currently seeing is not only the destruction of the last pillars of democracy, but also the destruction of the Putin system that has been created over the past eight years. This reminds me of the English philosopher of history Arnold Toynbee, who said: “Civilisations die from suicide, not by murder.” Putin and his elite are following the principle of a suicide state. By laying claim to legitimacy as national leader, he is ultimately undermining the institutions of state. After the presidential election, we will have an utterly weak, destroyed parliament, a destroyed multi-party system, a wrecked constitution, and finally a weak presidency, which he requires for his self-proclaimed role as leader.

Is it at all feasible that someone without an official position in Russia could take on the role that Deng Xiaoping played in China?


In Russia, there is no tradition of the “elder” as there is in China. However, Russia also has no tradition of dual power. The one attempt at this was made in 1993 and ended in bloodshed. Now we can expect at best that the paralysis that began to take hold in the country in 2004 will continue. And nobody should assume that the national leader will be able to retain his power for long.

The well-known political analyst Lila Shevtsova works for the Carnegie Foundation in Moscow. She spoke with Manfred Quiring.


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