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Opinion

Russia elections won't pave the way for a Putin dictatorship

Anyone who thinks that Vladmir Putin’s party United Russia Party will cruise to power in this weekend's parliamentary elections – and that this is the first step in his inevitable rise to dictatorship – had better think again.

By Andranik Migranyan / December 1, 2011



New York

Russia will conduct important Parliamentary elections this weekend. Yes, elections – with all the dangers and opportunities that elections hold for incumbent parties, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s.

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Anyone who thinks that Mr. Putin’s United Russia Party will cruise to power as the first step in his inevitable rise to dictatorship (after a projected easy victory in the 2012 presidential elections) had better think again. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Putin’s party and his new Popular Front initiative (a coalition of his ruling political party, trade groups, and nongovernmental organizations) have sizable support. But his United Russia party does not have a majority and certainly not the constitutional majority of two-thirds of the State Duma, according to public opinion surveys.

Two opposition parties taken together – the Communists and Liberal Democrats – are favored by nearly a quarter of the electorate, and there are other parties vying for voters, too.

Putin will have to forge a coalition government among disparate factions to have any chance of governing effectively if he retakes the presidency next March after a separate election. That won’t be easy, and the messy process is sure to disprove the Myth of Putin – that the former and likely future president plans to reconstitute the Soviet Union as his own, personal plaything.

Putin stepped down as Russia’s president in 2008, became prime minister, and remains the country’s most popular politician. He is widely seen as a man of the people, a veteran leader with a populist touch. His image is that of a fighter for the common man who can also stand toe-to-toe with other heads of state and negotiate successfully on Russia’s behalf.

His political party, however, has not fared so well. Critics have labeled the United Russia Party the “Party of Crooks and Thieves.”  Its missteps, mismanagement, and stultification have caused it to fall in the polls. To remain a leading voice, it was in need of a serious overhaul.

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