Putin Wins?

Puppet of Putin that appeared on the TV show "Kukli" (Puppets) © Presidential Press and Information | Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, once again, Vladimir Putin was “elected” President of Russia. Citizens could choose from among Putin, the current premier, and a group of weak opposition candidates, including well known faces such as Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky who always run but never win, along with newer faces such as Mikhail Prokhorov or Putin’s old friend Sergei Mironov, who in addition to their doubtful independence from the Kremlin, did not offer much of a campaign or new political ideas. And while the voting took place, and Putin and his supporters started celebrating right away, social media like Facebook and Twitter bubbled over with photos and accounts of election fraud. The critical social response is every bit as important as the election results.

A couple of days before the election, thousands of independent ballot observers waited in long lines to receive their training and instructions. The observers – unpaid volunteers – had arrived from Moscow, from other cities and from the countryside. Russian newspaper editor Dmitri Surnin wrote that the atmosphere among the waiting crowds resembled the mood during a citizens’ mobilization on the eve of war. “And your political preferences don’t matter, if you’re a leftist, or right, green, liberal, monarchist or communist – when the Fatherland is in danger, everybody needs to stand together.”

The war to which Surnin refers is one between the people who want to play it by the rules and those who want to falsify the elections and obstruct Russia’s democratic course. He cynically observes that the first group will be convinced of their moral victory, with the law and the truth on their side, but the second group will steal the real triumph, with the courts, the police, and Vladimir Putin on theirs.

Indeed, Putin won. Now let’s talk about the moral victors. A number of originally internet-based groups managed to organize a citizens’ army of more than 80,000 volunteers, who enlisted to visit polling stations to be on the lookout for election fraud. As reporter Anna Nemtsova remarked, “They are . . .

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