03/17/2018, 10.37
RUSSIA
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A vote to sanction twenty years of Putin

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Given the certainty of its outcome, the only doubt about the 18 March elections concerns the turnout. Over two decades, the president has built a Russia where wealth is abundant, but is distributed among a few bureaucrats, strong men and oligarchs aligned to them, while most of the population has more or less the same standard of living as during the Soviet Union.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - President Putin, who is set to be re-elected for the fourth time, will finally reach his twentieth year in power in Russia, having been appointed Prime Minister by Yeltsyn in 1998, then succeeding him as president in 2000 ; between 2008 and 2012, Putin sold the presidency to the trusted Dmitrij Medvedev, taking his place as head of the government, a position that was alternatively held by Medvedev throughout the Putin period. The only uncertainty of this election concerns the turnout, which has progressively decreased in recent years, given the lack of real opposition. The Kremlin has set a minimum of 65% participation to vote (in 2012 it was 65.3%).

Numerous initiatives have been taken to "encourage" citizens to go to the polls, from the project "Ballot box selfies", to the school referendum and the "Great family games", "Professional orientation" to be held at polling stations. Public administration employees and those of the Orthodox Church were practically "called upon" to vote. The attendance at the polls is more than the same percentage of voting for President Putin, for whom between 46 and 48 million supporters are expected (compared to the 45.6 million of the last election) out of a total of around 70 million eligible voters. The ideal figure indicated by Putin's staff is "70 out of 70 out of 70", 70% out of 70% of voters (70 million). Regional governors have nevertheless been given strict indications to avoid fraud and fixing.

Vladimir Putin triumphantly concluded the election campaign from the new bridge between the Crimean peninsula and the Russian coast, after having toured the area with a stop in Sevastopol (and its new airport), the city which is home to the Russian fleet. The elections are held, not surprisingly, on the exact date of the referendum of annexation of the Crimea, four years later, which marked a decisive escalation of national politics towards national pride and international isolation. It is expected that Putin himself will vote in the Crimea.

On 18 March, once polling stations have closed, there will be a party at the Manezhnaya Square, in Moscow, under the walls of the Kremlin, as happened in 2012. This time the party will be all for the president, who is running as an "independent" above the parties; the party he had founded, "United Russia", did not present any candidate, and announced that he had not organized parties after the vote. The televisions will organize night marathons to comment on the electoral results, and in the meantime they continuously broadcast the electoral films about President Putin, showing the highlights of his campaign. The most popular is the documentary that begins with the famous phrase by Yeltsyn, December 31, 1999, when he handed power to Putin: "I'm leaving, I did what I could", and puts another sentence in the center, pronounced from the first president of the new Russia Mikhail Gorbachev to Putin: "When this man became head of state, our elections have stopped being a profanation and finally they are the expression of popular will".

Over the course of the twenty years Putin has built a Russia where wealth abounds, but is distributed among a few bureaucrats, strong men and oligarchs aligned to them, while most of the population lives more or less at the level of the Soviet Union. Services for citizens are very poor: schools and hospitals are closing continuously, teachers and doctors receive very low salaries. The police are extremely corrupt and ineffective in the fight against the underworld, which instead thrives throughout the country. The streets are in very bad condition and the buildings are dilapidated, apart from the most important ones of the major urban centers. The 13% flat tax is designed for multibillionaires, whose bank balances grow fatter and fatter, while the bills for water, gas and light increase surreptitiously: not with the tariffs, but with the constant substitution of pipes and infrastructures. Apart from the economic factors, the reduction of forms of freedom of expression is impressive, with the elimination of the opposition press and the cultural monopoly of Christian Orthodoxy, increasingly "invasive" in all areas of social life.

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