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Rigged Elections yet no Democratic Spring for Russia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 8
Recently two elections were held on territory controlled by the Russian Federation. The first one was in the so-called republic of South Ossetia which has not been recognized by the international community, the second one was in the Russian Federation itself. The elections in the breakaway South Ossetia region of Georgia took place over two rounds. The first round did not reveal an outright winner. Two pretenders were left. One was the Russia-supported candidate Anatoly Bibilov and another was local resident and teacher Alla Jioeva. Right on the eve of the elections Bibilov was received by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev himself who endorsed Bibilov and showed voters in Tskhinvali region the preferences of the Russian administration. But the population of the breakaway region surprised Russian officials as well as any observers watching the developments in the region. In the next round, Jioeva received almost 57% of the vote whereas Bibilov, the Russian pretender polled only around 40%. Russian representatives in Tskhinvali were frustrated and disappointed, if not down right outraged. Extra measures were taken, the defeated Bibilov filed a lawsuit against Jioeva in the Supreme Court which promptly annulled the victory of Jioeva and disqualified her from further participation in the elections. A repeat election was slated for the coming spring. Jioeva started to resist these developments, on the one hand she mobilized her supporters and tried to legalize her victory and on the other hand she started negotiations with Russian patrons of the region to convince them that she would be the right person to rule expressing her loyalty to the Russian Federation and the Putin-Medvedev. Moscow, however, decided to resolve the situation despite Medvedev's comments that the events were a matter for the South Ossetian people themselves and therefore they have to decide themselves what to do. In reality the Kremlin gave the green light to the ruling clan of Eduard Kokoity (the current president of South Ossetia) who also supports Bibilov. This works well for Kokoity as it would secure his future and prevent any events to dig the dirt on the depth of corruption in Kokoity's administration.

The whole masquerade of an election process in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, was a kind of dress rehearsal for the parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation itself this Sunday. It would not help to speculate here a lot about the violations and manipulations carried out by the Russian government during the elections. It will take time to know all the details, yet it clear from foreign observers, local human rights groups and other democratic forces that the elections in Russia were far from free and fair. In some places the Russian government has stopped even bothering to pretend that what is going on is democratic. In Chechnya, we are supposed to believe that 99.5% of people voted for the ruling United Russia party without manipulation. In any democratic country, this result would be an embarrassment.

With these elections then any hopes that the Putin-Medvedev tandem in Russia could improve democracy has been shown up as a naive illusion. And despite some protests, it would be naive as well to think that any Arab Spring style revolution will be seen in Russia in the near future.

There are grounds then for the US and its allies to seriously reexamine relationships with Russia. Moscow's disregard for its own people at home and the South Ossetians in a region of Georgia that it decided would be independent, Medvedev's confession that the 2008 war with Georgia was about the prevention of NATO enlargement, as well as the decision to deploy Iskander missiles next to Europe, should all prompt the west to foresee and forestall future problems. The same goes for the Georgian government. At a time of internal dissent against the Russian regime, Putin's circle will be looking to blame external enemies, and Georgia remains towards the top of that long list.