Putin's Oligarchy

Photo Source: BBC

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Putin's oligarchy continues to hold Russia, as he has now won a fourth election term in March 2018. There have been accusations of election rigging and forced voting, but somehow, there is very less opposition on these matters. In fact, he has ordered 12000 police personnel to surround the cities to brace protests. 

American President, Donald Trump congratulated Putin on his election win, just like Obama did in 2012. This felicitation angered former Presidential candidate John McCain, and he reprimanded Trump, as John McCain believed that it was a ‘sham election win’ for Putin, in the 2018 Russian election.

According to an independent election-monitoring group, Golos, voting papers found in some ballot boxes were opened. Many election observers were barred from entering the polling stations. Some of the CCTV’s at the polling booths were covered with balloons and it had obstructed the voting count sessions.

For a while, Russian politics has been synonymous with Vladimir Putin. He will likely remain in office for a total of 25 years – a record only kept by Joseph Stalin.

In all these years, Putin has left no stone unturned in increasing the military budget, to gain advantages in the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, Chechnya, Georgia and Syria. Although, he wants to increase the quality of Russian life.

There are various provocations done by the Russian State lately, which include the recent usage of nerve agent in the United Kingdom, the expulsion of foreign diplomats from Moscow and manufacturing of a new ICBM that is believed to have a potential to strike anywhere on the north and south pole.

In terms of Russian military life, dissenting journalists such as late Anna Politkovskaya believed that serving in the Russian army is like living a life of a slave in a prison. According to her writings, most of the army men give their services on the imposing behest of the authority.

Russian society also has a notorious reputation for being a graveyard of dissenting journalists, who try to defy the government narrative. It had happened with Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote memoirs on the Chechen war, a brave journalist silenced for speaking the truth. She had once claimed that she was poisoned in a flight to Ossetia. Three years later, after her death, her killers were all acquitted by the government: Sergej Chadzikurbanox, ex-officer with Ministry of Internal Affairs, three Chechen brothers, Dzabrail, Ibragim Machmudov and Rustam, and Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov of the Security Forces. She was someone, who was respected by both sides in the war. 

Another journalist, Paul Klebnikov, Russian editor of Forbes magazine, who was known for writing against oligarchs, Russian capitalism, had been murdered in Moscow, possibly by some hired assassin. Vladisk Listyev, a Russian TV anchor, was shot near the stairs of his apartment building as well. A Russian businessman, Boris Berezovsky had been accused in his murder, although the court believed otherwise.

In ‘Putin's Russia: Life in a failing democracy’ (2004), late Anna Politkovskaya wrote: “Voting day is bureaucratic and authoritarian. The return of Soviet times during Putin’s time in office is obvious.  Half of Russians support him and half do not. He has many backers who have vested interests. He doesn’t want to debate anything with anyone and disdains any campaigning against him. He behaves exactly like Lenin’s Cheka or secret police, much like his KGP days.  Many common Russians do not support him because they don’t want the world to know that Russians are authoritarian with a one-party system and that the Russian society is not plural. "

In this process for global domination, and the history of recent controversies towing behind the country, Putin has faced significant pushbacks on the global scale, due to his recent role in the Syrian war. At one point in time, political commentators believed that Russian political bureaucracy interfered in the last US Presidential election. In fact, many believe Donald Trump to be the most pro-Russian US President to date.

In his past, Putin has been accused of playing witty political games, such as in February 2004, when he reshuffled the cabinet just a month before the election. His critics believed that it had further paralysed the government riddled with corruption. This whole scene occupied the TV channels and it gave them some stimulus for the Presidential campaigns later. Political commentators had called it a game settled for scoring political points and accused him of being a ‘tyrant’ and a ‘despot’.

Going back to the 2018 Russian election, Putin had to deal with two rivals this time around – Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of Putin’s political mentor belonging from Civic Initiative party and the Communist leader, Pavel Grudinin.

However, it is important to note that the main opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been barred from running the election because of corruption charges. The head of the Russian election commission, however, believes that there are no serious violations.

The turnout in this election had been higher than the last election. The levels of poverty seem to be significantly lower than before, despite Russia being an economic middle power. The wage has significantly grown at 10 per cent on average, despite many economic sanctions. 

It is believed that a new modern culture has emerged during Putin’s time in Russia. Common Russians seem to be obsessed with cars and high-end furniture. The car sales in Russia stand as par with Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary. Russians are in love with IKEA furniture brand. There has been a tremendous growth of IKEA retail outlets – from one outlet in Moscow in 2000 to around fourteen outlets in 2018. There has been a popular rise of champagne culture as well. Many might shove away these things as pro-Putin propaganda, but these things might be actually true.

Interestingly, this had been a unique Russian election. Despite opposition calling for a boycott, the election campaigns, this time around, had several promotions, which were planned to mainly entice the voters, which included selfie contests, iPhone giveaways and even cars as hefty prizes.


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