Vladimir Putin gave his victory speech with tears in his eyes after winning Russia’s presidential election. Putin claimed a win when less than a quarter of the votes had been counted. Exit polls suggested he would take about 59 percent, though independent watchdogs reported widespread vote rigging. In his speech, Putin said that the victory showed that “our people can easily distinguish a desire for renewal and revival from political provocations aimed at destroying Russia’s statehood and usurping power.” Though the speech was delivered to a crowd of thousands, many of them had been ordered to attend and an opposition demonstration is expected to be held in Moscow on Monday evening.
The Wall Street Journal took a long, hard look at Russia’s Dec. 4 elections and finds solid indicators of major, widespread, in-your-face fraud—by one measure, casting doubt on some 14 million of the 65.7 million votes purportedly cast. Seems Vladimir Putin’s United Russia did astoundingly well in precincts where voter turnout was way above the national average, a metric that the Journal notes doesn’t prove ballot-stuffing outright, but “provides the first overall picture” that it “could be broad in scale.”
The thing about harsh authoritarian regimes is it’s not laws, or courts, or the rigid government hierarchy that makes them run. It is fear. And once the fear is taken out of the equation – suddenly, for the vanishing of fear is always sudden – it becomes clear that these courts, laws and hierarchies do not work. Everything just starts falling apart.
A Russian Spring, perhaps? Let’s hope. And let’s hope the Republicans are next!