A Losing United Russia Program
- By Alexei Pankin
- Nov. 27 2007 00:00
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A common feature of all elections since 1993 is that the authorities use the full force of the media to discredit those forces they feel represent a real threat to their power. This time around, SPS was just about the only designated enemy in town. The overwhelming majority of coverage against SPS that was broadcast on Channel One, Rossia and NTV television was negative in content and mocking in tone.
Moreover, many newspapers, including Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moskovsky Komsomolets and Izvestia, were filled with anti-SPS exposes written by authors nobody had ever heard of and carrying the heavy odor of paid-for advertising.
The truly defining feature of these elections has been the emergence of the For Putin movement. The only thing even remotely similar that I can recall took place in 1973, when Soviet citizens attended meetings in support of Chile's Communist leader Louis Corvalan, who was tossed into prison following a military coup in that country.
I don't deny that the job of Russian president is a tough one, but it can't begin to compare with the horrors faced by a prisoner in Pinochet's torture chambers.
Putin's speech before his supporters reminds me of a psychiatric patient's medical history of phobias. In a similar fashion, the Kremlin is afraid of oligarchs, foreign embassies and nongovernment organizations, charitable organizations, Orange Revolutions, protests against the manipulation of the election results and voters who dream of transforming the State Duma into a mob of "irresponsible populists."
In the course of his speech, Putin condemned the following people who had given him support at different stages of his political career, without naming their names: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for the "collapse of the Soviet Union," former President Boris Yeltsin for "pilfering the national wealth" and the current Russian ambassador to Ukraine and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for his "negotiations with the terrorists who killed our children."
Putin's most loyal ally now is United Russia leader and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. Normally, Gryzlov has the look of a Russian aristocrat and the dry manners of a Prussian bureaucrat. But at the Luzhniki rally, in a style very similar to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Gryzlov cried out from the podium that Putin is the nation's "national leader."You could hardly find a stranger scene.
It would not have been quite so bad from the point of view of the president's image if various television programs did not show some of his and United Russia's frustrations. Pro-Putin yet independent newspapers like Komsomolskaya Pravda tried to use a little irony to diffuse the absurdity of this past month's political antics in an article authored by staff journalists -- not a piece that was paid for by United Russia. But how can the printed word stack up to the power of television?
As a result, only a few weeks ago Putin was perceived as a self-confident and composed national leader, but ever since he tied his fate to United Russia, he is increasingly seen as a panicking loser.
Alexei Pankin is the editor of Strategii i Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa, a magazine for publishing business professionals.