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Russia's Elections Part 1: Looking for a Good Laugh

Kyle Atwell has joined the Atlantic Review. This is already his third post. All of his posts are here in chronological order. Kyle will introduce himself later. Let's have him get right into discussing the Russian elections, in particular France's reaction:

The topic of last Sunday's elections in Russia has flooded my news aggregator the past couple days, and what I originally intended to be a brief news summary on the elections has blossomed into several distinct thoughts. To keep to the short blog format, I have broken down my thoughts into three posts. This is the first.

The disingenuousness of the Russian elections has been almost comical at times.  For example, the Washington Post reports that in war-torn Chechnya, Putin's United Russia party won 99.36 percent of the vote with a turnout of 99.5 percent. Not laughing yet... here is where it gets really funny:

"It's a normal result. I'm pleased," said Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman president of Chechnya and a Kremlin loyalist who has pacified large parts of the war-torn republic in southern Russia. "The most important thing to me is that people were voting with pleasure. Almost all people came to the elections. It shows the level of trust in the power."

These numbers are clearly inflated. I am pretty sure that you could not get 99.5 percent of Russians to a free vodka giveaway, much less the polling stations.

While many in the west (Corriere della Sera) have questioned the election's legitimacy, Sarkozy of France spared no time in calling Putin up personally to offer his "warm congratulations" (Le Monde). Sarkozy was the only western leader to congratulate Putin at the time this article was written.

Sarkozy's action took me by surprise. For a French president who has taken pains to demonstrate his affections for the US, I expected Sarkozy to speak out against Putin's power abuse, or at least keep mum about it. I wonder if a chance to boost strategic bilateral interests with Russia was too tempting to pass up for the French leader, even when it meant breaking western unity in opposing the dubious election results.

For regular readers: props to Joerg and his recent post, How to be a Good Ally of the United States? Just Smile: He must be having one of those 'I told you so' moments after having teased that an ally's smile and sweet talk (of which Sarkozy has plenty for the US) can be used as a better measure of its commitment to the US than its actual policy actions.

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Anonymous on :

Ninety-nine percent doesn't seem inflated. Remember five years ago, Saddam Hussein received support from 100% of eligible voters for his re-election.

Bernd on :

Sarkozy is a "macho". He is very similar to Schroeder in Germany. Putin is a macho, too. These people just respect each other. They do not respect Bush, who is definitely not a macho. I have no problem to picture Schroeder, Putin and Sarkozy sit down together over a glass of Whiskey and a big cigar and discuss the matters of the world.

Don S on :

"Ninety-nine percent doesn't seem inflated." LOL! Agreed. It gives Hugo Chavez something to aspire to - always assuming that the Great Hugo doesn't decide to dispense with elections like the Great Fidel did. When you are the Solon of the People - who needs elections? ;)

Zyme on :

I am sure the only reason why there have been no congratulations from Germany is the fact that this hasn´t been a presidential election. As soon as Putin himself is elected into a new office, he will receive the best wishes from our foreign ministry :)

Don S on :

Presumably he has already recieved the best wishes of his employee Herr Schroeder, eh? ;) Just remember - Russians electtions are better-balanced and more fair that those in the 666th 'Reich' (formerly known as the United States of America). Don't forget 2000 - the most rigged election of the past millenium (if not further back than that)!

John in MI on :

Well, in the US, the 2000 election was indeed rigged, but Bush managed to prevail in spite of it. For example, a number of precincts that went against Bush turned in more votes than there were registered voters.

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