Putin the Pleaser

MOSCOW: Russia’s election campaign was a bore. I wish I could explain that it was tedious because we are now a normal democratic country, a place where politics is mundane, not a matter of life and death. But Russia is still another type of country. So a Russian election that seems Soviet in its utter predictability is not to be welcomed. Fundamental issues remain unsettled; hard choices must be made. Informed, consent is needed, and our democratic election did not provide it.

Voters were so bored that there was real doubt that the minimum 51% of all eligible voters would cast their ballots and thus make the election results valid. Abstention on such a scale would at least have made the election interesting. Outside Russia, of course, the world has been preoccupied by our so-called campaign, probably only because Russia’s democracy still seem such a novelty.

As expected for months, Vladimir Putin won by a wide margin. No longer is he "acting" president. Instead, Putin rules in his own right. But what is his mandate? No one knows for certain. Hints as to the general tenor of his presidency can, perhaps, be found in discovering why Putin’s star rose so meteorically.

Putin stands for change, inchoate change, but change nonetheless. For Russians tired of Boris Yeltsin long ago. From a crowd favourite, an idol of women and intellectuals, Yeltsin turned into a feeble old man who aroused pity. People were sick of his "unpredictability", of his inability to control his temper or knock sense-- if not integrity--into the Kremlin’s corrupt gang. People held Yeltsin responsible for making Russia a global laughing stock, and were sick of his broken promises.