Friday, November 30, 2007

Strong-arm campaigning by Putin in Russia

Vladimir Putin is not trying to extend his term as president of Russia. But he is acting authoritarian in many ways. He has strengthened one of the other offices, which has always been a figure-head post. But he has stengthened it so when he steps down as president he moves into that office and still has power. And his political party is using strong-arm methods to get votes. They are destroying the campaign literature of opponents. Opponents have been arrested in Perm while campaigning. And much more. Washington Post reports:
Millions of pieces of opposition campaign literature have been seized or destroyed, those observers report. Parties have found themselves unable to secure billboard or other advertising space, so that on the streets of Moscow and other cities it appears that only one party, United Russia, is running. Campaign workers have been arrested and beaten across Russia. For example, in the Urals city of Perm, workers were detained while attempting to canvass voters. A party organizer was reported beaten up in the Mordovia region. And a candidate for the Yabloko party was shot and killed last week in the southern republic of Dagestan.
Of course Putin knows nothing of this.
But across the country, people tell a different story. Employees and students at state enterprises and institutions, including hospitals and universities, have come under pressure from their bosses and deans to vote for United Russia on Sunday or face retribution, according to activists. On national and regional television stations, which are controlled by the authorities, opposition parties have received brief, non-prime-time slots for political statements and been neglected or derided in news programming. Putin and other United Russia leaders, in contrast, are the subject of glowing reports. "There was no political campaign; there was only propaganda for United Russia," said Lilia Shibanova, director of Golos, a Russian private organization that monitors elections. "In all state media, there was huge preference and prevalence in coverage of United Russia. Any coverage of other parties was almost 100 percent entirely negative." ...

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