Krem­lin looks to sweep elec­tions

The Myanmar Times - - World -

RUS­SIA is gear­ing up for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions on Septem­ber 18, with par­ties loyal to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin set to dom­i­nate de­spite the Krem­lin mak­ing a show of clean­ing up the vote af­ter mass protests last time around.

The polls, which in­clude the an­nexed Crimea penin­sula for the first time, come as his rat­ings still stand at more than 80 per­cent de­spite the coun­try en­dur­ing the long­est eco­nomic cri­sis of his rule due to fall­ing oil prices and sanc­tions over Ukraine.

While a new elec­tion chief has clamped down on cor­rup­tion and more op­po­si­tion can­di­dates have been al­lowed to run, an­a­lysts say the author­i­ties’ to­tal grip looks cer­tain to guar­an­tee a smooth vic­tory – set­ting the stage for Mr Putin to cruise to a fourth term in power in 2018.

“Clearly, the Krem­lin has lit­tle ap­petite for re­lax­ing its whole­sale con­trol over Rus­sia’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem,” the Carnegie Moscow Cen­tre think tank wrote.

“There is also a de­sire to por­tray the elec­tions as largely fair to help the regime bol­ster its le­git­i­macy among both elites and the broader body politic in the run-up to the 2018 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

The polls also in­clude votes for some key re­gional lead­ers: most promi­nently in the repub­lic of Chech­nya where Ramzan Kady­rov is facing his first pop­u­lar test to his decade-long rule.

Rights groups say there has been a harsh crack­down on dis­sent in the run up to the vote.

Loom­ing large for the Krem­lin in this polls is the mass protests that fol­lowed the 2011 vote, which drew thou­sands of Rus­sians on to the streets af­ter ev­i­dence of vote rig­ging emerged.

The demon­stra­tions rep­re­sented the big­gest chal­lenge to Mr Putin’s since he took charge in 2000 and ex­perts say the author­i­ties are des­per­ate not to give any pre­text for a re­peat.

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