Democracy the loser as Putin triumphs (TELEGRAPH UK) By Julius Strauss in Moscow 12/09/03)
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The scale of Russia´s disillusionment with western-style democracy
became apparent yesterday as the country´s two largest pro-western
parties were all but wiped out in parliamentary elections.
Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, which campaigned on a platform
of greater democracy and stronger ties with the West, had their
As comprehensive results from Sunday´s polling were published,
President Putin´s United Russia came out the clear winner with 37.1
per cent of the vote and a majority of seats in the new State Duma.
Depending on the final count, United Russia could control two thirds
of the Duma, allowing the president to change the constitution at
will. Another quarter of the seats will be shared by anti-western
reactionaries nostalgic for the days of Soviet superpower status.
The veteran ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky´s Liberal
Democrats won 11.6 per cent of the vote.
Homeland, a party founded three months ago, won 9.1 per cent. The
party leaders, a nationalist and a former Communist, campaigned on a
promise to redistribute the nation´s wealth and reassert Russia as a
The biggest losers were the Communists, who have dominated the Duma
for most of the last decade. Their support dropped to barely 13 per
cent after state-run television savaged them throughout the campaign.
Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist leader, said: "You are all
participants in a revolting spectacle which for some reason is called
"There are all the signs that a fascist regime is being formed, a
police state that will be run along the model espoused by Goebbels."
Analysts at one financial firm, Aton, summed up the shock in a
research note: "Yesterday´s election shows what the people actually
think: they are stridently nationalist, want wealth redistributed and
have little interest in liberal or democratic values."
Igor Mintusov, of Nikkolo M, political campaign consultants,
said: "It is a sad day for liberalism. The liberals in Russia are
finished in the short term."
Western observers criticised Sunday´s poll. Bruce George, of the
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a democracy
watchdog, said: "Our main impression of the overall electoral process
was one of regression in the democratisation of this country.
"The enormous advantage of incumbency and access to state equipment,
resources and buildings led to the election result being
Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said: "We share those
Boris Nemtsov, one of the leaders of the pro-western Union of Right
Forces, said Russia now faced the prospect of a return to a police
state. Among the election results were some that engendered total
In Chechnya, where voters are stridently anti-Kremlin, the electoral
commission declared that United Russia had won nearly 80 per cent of
the vote. Many of the new MPs won their seats campaigning for
increased law and order.
In Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, Yevgeny Roizman, a convicted robber
reputed to have links to organised crime, won 44 per cent of the
vote. Mr Roizman, who runs a brutal drugs clinic where patients are
chained and beaten, has promised to clean up the city.
Mr Putin, for whom the results are a ringing endorsement, was
ebullient. But many feel a growing sense of a lack of direction. They
say they are fed up with the entire political process. Turnout was
about 50 per cent. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.
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