'This Is How You Elect a F*cking President?'

Putin cracks down on Moscow's protesters before the victory tears are dry on his face.

BY JULIA IOFFE | MARCH 6, 2012

MOSCOW — When Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov left Pushkin Square Monday night, the crowd -- estimated by the police at 14,000 -- was just starting to disperse. They had stood for two hours in sub-zero temperatures, not 24 hours after Vladimir Putin wept after sweeping to victory in Sunday's presidential race with 63.6 percent of the vote. They had listened to speeches from the whole gamut of the opposition -- the leftists, the nationalists, Alexey Navalny, Mikhail Prokhorov, all had their turn at the microphone. They chanted "Putin is a thief!" and "We are the power!" They weren't as cheerful as they'd been in past protests, but they were peaceful, despite the crowd of Putin supporters that had arrived from central casting.

Gudkov, who represents the Just Russia party and has been a central figure in this winter's opposition protests, made sure to talk to the police officer overseeing the whole operation before he left for his appearance on opposition channel RainTV. Ilya Ponomarev, another Just Russia Duma deputy who has been a key figure in the movement, had announced from the stage that he would meet with anyone who wanted to talk to him at the fountain in the center of the square, a sort-of impromptu town hall. Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who's become the opposition's most natural leader, and leftist activist Sergei Udaltsov had announced that they weren't leaving the square, period -- an unlikely prospect given the temperature. "He told me, fine, let them stay and shout for a few hours," Gudkov said, of the police supervisor.

It didn't quite go down like that. Gudkov and his son Dmitry, also a Duma deputy from the same party, left Pushkin Square with a clear conscience. Ponomarev climbed up on the granite fountain in the center of the square, where Navalny, Udaltsov and a few others joined them. A small crowd of supporters -- almost all male -- stuck around, too. When the police started shouting at them to clear out, Navalny's bodyguard commanded the crowd to form a tightly packed chain around him, and the young men at the bottom of that snow-filled empty fountain joined up. Riot police started to sweep the square and drag people into armored vans: holding pens on wheels. Then the police descended into the fountain, snatching links out of the human chain, one by one, and dragging them to the side of the fountain, and hurling them, like sacks of potatoes, over the red granite border. "Hey! Toss the next one!" one of the cops waiting up there giggled in delight.

They got Udaltsov, Navalny, opposition figure Ilya Yashin, a Western journalist, and Ponomarev, who stood shouting into a loudspeaker: "Police! Stop breaking the law! This is a peaceful meeting!" (They quickly released him.) All in all, they got 250 people, including Alena Popova, a glamorous young media consultant and e-government evangelist who has linked up to Ponomarev and the opposition movement. She wasn't so lucky, though: the police broke her arm.

Hearing about this, the Gudkovs raced back to Pushkin Square from the television studio. By the time they arrived, the riot police and the OMON special police had formed a chain and started to push everyone out of the square. There was plenty of room and not many people, but they managed to get into such a formation -- a reverse cowherd -- that people, many of them journalists with press badges in full view, started falling and getting trampled underfoot.

Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

 SUBJECTS: RUSSIA
 

Julia Ioffe is Foreign Policy's Moscow correspondent.

MICHAELGERALDPDEALINO

11:21 PM ET

March 5, 2012

Congratulations

Congratulations, former KGB man. You really know how to "win" in elections. Undemocratic countries in the world, cheers! One of your best sponsors is back at the top post!

 

RES PUBLIC

6:57 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Misha

Misha, you should maybe read the other Foreign Policy article on here. The domestic observers, for example Transparency International, have documented the voting fraud.

Also, the OECD didn't complain just about conditions preceeding the election (including Putin abusing state funds for the sake of his campaign!), but he also noted there was a serious suspicion of fraud during the vote count which followed.

Here's the article feturing the Transparency International, which I have mentioned earlier.: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/04/cleaning_up_in_moscow

 

RES PUBLIC

7:01 AM ET

March 6, 2012

PS:

Not to mention that Putin's people would be of course notified of where the foreign observers were, meaning that the most serious problem of the election - carousel voting - would remain unnoticed.

And one more question for the defenders of Crooks and Liars: Do you honestly believe the victory in Chechnya, the country which Putin ordered bombed into oblivion, featuring 99% of votes for Putin at 99% turnout, has been fair? You don't have to say anything further: just yes/no.

 

RES PUBLIC

9:24 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Misha

It is irrelevant whether Putin would win in a fair election more than 50%. Truth is, he has falsified the election to receive his 63%, which makes the whole point of the election - a fair measurement of sympathies and a political competition, completely moot.

You have said Kadirov is pro-United Russia, which is an absolutly accurate assesment. It is for this reason that witnesses in Chechnya have spoken about being forced to attend the voting and vote correctly.

You speak about money flowing into Chechnya, but you still masterfully evaded the core question: Do you honestly, seriously, believe that Putin has won with a 99% turnout 99% of the votes? Do you? By golly, what an amazing enthusiasm for voting in a man who bombed and killed over a tenth of Chechen populatiom! You must think we're all complete idiots.

 

SHARKCARTILAGE

10:33 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Sorry, but

I hope you do understand the difference between Duma elections and the President elections. These are two different elections happened in different time. Don't mix them up. I don't think Putin should be personally responsible for all the fraud with Duma elections.

 

GUESTRU

12:34 PM ET

March 6, 2012

stop it you lose

deal with it. there was enough international observers from different countries with different political views. and so called liberal opposition as well. they saw Putin's CLEAR win without any infractions. and they shocked and devastated now. there was web translation of the election also. theres no way to bring 64% of votes with carousel voting and you know it. stop lying to yourself. even opposition nongovernmental organisations gave Putin victory in the 1st tour not to mention exit polls and other social researchers.

"CLEAR ELECTIONS":
PUTIN 60,9% Zyuganov 17,9% Prokhorov 8,5% Zhirinovsky 7,4% Mironov 3,8%

"THE VOICE":
PUTIN 54,49% Zyuganov 19,66% Prokhorov 12,92% Zhirinovsky 6,71% Mironov 5,03%

"CITIZEN OBSERVER":
PUTIN 56,42% Zyuganov 16,38% Prokhorov 14,89% Zhirinovsky 6,56% Mironov 4,42%

"RusElections":
PUTIN 54,44% Zyuganov 19,96% Prokhorov 12,19% Zhirinovsky 7,42% Mironov 4,8%

so stop complaining. learn to lose with dignity. it's a clear win and theres nothing unexpected in it.

 

GUESTRU

12:45 PM ET

March 6, 2012

MICHAELGERALDPDEALINO

just because YOU don't like the results of the elections doesen't do the elections unfair and country undemocratic. it's OUR business and OUR CHOISE. and it's not your business.

btw this Gudkov is FSB (former KGB) man and full of S*%T. so you can congradulate him. he finallly got what he deserved.

 

CHARLESFRITH

2:17 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Oh Fuck You

Why don't you get some balls and write about the fake US elections before you poke your fucking nose into other peoples business. The only reason you smear is because Iran isn't getting bombed you sick fuck.

(I don't usually swear but your title demands it)

 

LARUSSOPHOBE

4:17 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Seems Ioffe is the Most Committed Radical in Russia

The protest against Putin's victory was an abject failure. Navalny has admitted it.

http://russiaprofile.org/politics/55497.html

Other reporters know it.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/on-a-cold-night-in-pushkin-square-vladimir-putin-prevails/article2359543/

But not Julia Ioffe. She goes on beating a drum for the opposition forces that is totally out of touch with even a vague sense of reality. It's kind of scary, actually. Hard to see how this brand of "journalism" is any different from that practiced by Putin and Russia Today.

 

RES PUBLIC

6:54 AM ET

March 6, 2012

I wonder

How many of the people above are paid Kremlin trolls?

 

RES PUBLIC

5:27 PM ET

March 6, 2012

Well?

Has anyone documented "anti-Russian" trolls?
Because Kremlin trolls have been vastly documented. I wonder if Mischa will parrot the party line on on this one too?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/07/putin-hacked-emails-russian-nashi

 

SHARKCARTILAGE

7:59 PM ET

March 11, 2012

Well, Res Public

You make me laugh by suggesting that Kremlin trolls fluently speak English and post such a long comments here. This is just ridiculous. Maybe 0,00000000000001% of Russians can read this, this is for small auditorium. Do you really think Kremlin cares?! Trust me, Kremlin trolls stay on another web-sites and post in Russian in another manner. And I guess you don't speak Russian at all, to understand these nuances.

 

SHARKCARTILAGE

8:05 PM ET

March 11, 2012

Besides, what did you do with

Besides, what did you do with Misha? Banned him? I can't see his comments anymore.

 

GENNY

7:59 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Fifth term, Ladies and Gentlemen

First term: Two and a half months in 2000, after Eltsin's weeping on Dec 31st '99, (Dec 1999 already was the month under this gravity, starting from Sept 1999 residential houses explosions in Moscow).
Fourth term: in disguise of a prime minister (the first initiative with that camouflage was the invasion in Georgia).
Squash, squash and squash...

 

GENNY

8:20 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Two deepest in the depths the puzzles of our times

1. Who killed JFK?
2. Who elected VVP?

 

SHARKCARTILAGE

8:39 AM ET

March 6, 2012

Julia, just go f*ck yourself

You are just annoying people with all this stuff. Your arrogance about simple Russians is just too exposed. Have some respect to the country and to the people.
Opposition lost. They are getting less and less people coming to their protests. Its stupid to cry over the spilled milk. De juro and de facto russians had that many choices: Prokhorov, Mironov, Zyuganov, Putin and Zhirinovskiy. They made their choice. Game over. These elections weren't falsified. Of course in the ideal world, in the ideal environment, Russians could have more choices. But it doesn't matter "what would be if..."
These opposition leaders are just ridiculous. They say that they want democracy but democracy is "the rule of the many". It often feels like they think that only intelligent, middle class people should vote. They don't respect opinion of simple people from the regions, who are maybe less educated and maybe have smaller income, but it doesn't make their vote any less valuable. This is what democracy is. Democracy is simple: 1man - 1 vote.

So, Julia, really... give it a break with all this freedom and democracy thirst.

 

GENNY

3:45 PM ET

March 6, 2012

I envy this courageous person

I have to remember these courageous words! AFTER! AFTER the elections!
"Your arrogance about simple Russians is just too exposed. Have some respect to the country and to the people."
Thank you, SHARKCARTILAGE!

 

ALEXV

12:12 PM ET

March 6, 2012

To Julia and all others

My personal beliefs aside...

Before any of you should judge how horrible Putin's actions are, you should first spend some time understanding Russian people and there mentality. Democracy will never be possible in Russia, and corruption will never seize. If you think Putin is an ass, you should find out what other political candidates do for living, and i don't just mean their official positions and titles. Do you know how it all intertwined in their small world? Their money is made by stealing and cheating the system, the people, their own neighbours!!! And they don't give back to the society, unless it serves some kind of a purpose, either political or marketing.

It is sad to read your articles Julia, since it feels that you are full of hatred, and blinded by one man's actions. You view democracy as an ideal object of desire, but reality cannot be like this, especially not in Russia, regardless of what any of the young Russians tells you in a moment of heat and passion. Russia is a country where people are never satisfied, and never happy with what they have. If you read history books, watched movies, and followed politics for the past two centuries, you should understand the tragedy of this nation. Putin is panacea and the only solution at this juncture.

Stop viewing Russia as a separate entity from it's people, culture and it's history. It's political course is on a right truck, and no one will do a better job than Putin, since only he, at this moment, has the strength to keep this country together while making progress and protecting it's borders from US, China, and others who would be very happy to see it all go down. Putin is stability, and even if slow, put progress. Forget about him getting reach and stealing, it's inevitable with whoever comes to rule this country, or any country of the previous USSR. Just look around at Ukraine, Armenia, Belorussia, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan etc. Take any city in those countries where there is something to be stolen and controlled, and you will see, it's all the same. First you steal for yourself, feed your family and friends, make sure your grand children are set, and only than you share with all the rest, if of cause you are still alive and still at the helm. Anyone who will tell you they can do better in Russia are lying, or are very naive. It's such a powerful system, and it's in the DNA of it's people.

If your goal is a better foreign policy for Canada or US, just think of how to turn this into your own advantage, but do not delude yourselves with change and democratic establishment.

 

ALEXV

2:23 PM ET

March 6, 2012

And one more thing,

violence and brutality is an integral part of Eastern-European mentality... when i was growing up there, despite the kindness we inherited from our parents and teachers, and the brainwashing we got in school to be exemplary pioneers and respect elders, women and help those in need, I grew up in bloodstained t-shirt fighting and cursing my way through... i didn't get a chance to serve in the army, but google the word 'dedovshchina' and read up, and this will enlighten you to the way brutality and abuse have been integrated in the genes of the system and the society. Even those who immigrate to more civilized places, continue to behave in a similar manner, for a very long time, only to realize later that there are better and safer ways. But those who remain in that environment, continue to obey unspoken and unwritten rules of the world they live in.

I recently visited my hometown after 20 years of absence, and believe you me, nothing has changed. It is not as open and not as commonplace as it used to be before, but killing 5 bank tellers just to get hands on some petty cash is not uncommon. And broken hands at a political rally and unlawful arrest, are probably the only way of making sure that people do not do something stupid and overturn the elite, the ruling class. Because even they do, they will not do any better, just waste precious time and money again. Government hasn't learned to control people in a more civilized manner yet, and until people don't respond in a more civilized manner, and don't start treating each other at a street level as human beings and not as trash, there will be no change there...

 

RES PUBLIC

3:55 PM ET

March 6, 2012

The people were protesting

The people were protesting peacefully against a rigged election. That's behaviour of citizens wishing for democracy and willing to work within its bounds. Dictatorship is not culturally determined - Germany was a dictatorship and yet it is now one of the pillars of the European Union.

You talk about how people are supposedly rough to each other - but that's not a problem of the people, it is a problem of the system which shapes them while they live in it. What was interesting to watch was the transformation of the former Soviet block once it came tumbling down. The people began to smile again on the streets again, even talking to strangers, imagine that!
It's a two way road, the only way to create a democratic society is to build the potential for it, by implementing democracy in government.
Democracy flowers around the world, from United States over Czech Republic to Japan. If it is to come to Russia, then the government must enable free political competition. There's no other way to build it.

 

BILL EVERETT

1:15 AM ET

March 8, 2012

"...until people don't

"...until people don't respond in a more civilized manner, and don't start treating each other at a street level as human beings and not as trash, there will be no change there"

I think this is exactly true (although correct English is "...while people don't respond" or "...until people respond." It seems to me that this necessary change in the foundation of the social structure is happening.

 

ANTONIOARGANDA

3:42 PM ET

March 6, 2012

Putin

The dude won. Get over yourselves!

 

GENNY

4:25 PM ET

March 6, 2012

People say that the deal was crooked

This is the main concern. I mean people not here but in the streets. We, West and East, are used to be under rigid and very straight govt mechanism. In the West, it was small, in the East very large, but always was straight. Now you don't know who will be smashed next by crooked log. If we talk about customary things, the price should be paid immediately and from the winner's own table, before going on squashing and squashing and squashing...

 

ALEXV

5:01 PM ET

March 6, 2012

RES PUBLIC

People who were protesting were set up and brainwashed by others, in the same way as were those who voted for Putin. What you don't understand, is that people in Russia new it 4 years ago that Putin will be president again. No one had any doubts! Only west was flipping coins and was guessing what if...

Everything was done to ensure the win, to ensure continuation of some stability and control, pro Russian control, and not pro western! You have to keep it in mind! Have you asked yourself would would happen if US would mingle in Russian internal politics? More McDonalds, more US chicken wings, more export into Russia of westernized way of life! But people are not ready yet for something like that! That's why Putin must continue to lead it, making sure Russian interests are preserved. He is behaving as any good president would, in his own way, possibly not the most democratic and the most peaceful way, but surely a needed way.

None of the opposition leaders has a single clue how to control such a huge and demographically diverse nation. Putin does, he has the experience, and most importantly the support, of the ex-KGB! Imagine if no one listens and no one responds to what the president says?! There will be such a chaos, back into 1990... Free political competition in Russia will disable it for many years to come, and on the international arena will eliminate it completely! That's what US wants, but that's what Putin is trying to prevent.

Russians are very proud people, they will not let anyone build their democracy for them especially the US!

 

GENNY

5:17 PM ET

March 7, 2012

Take care of Russia...

If the winner is the element of chaos, his election will make (or more precisely, will continue to make) the chaos global. If he is the element of the order, then he should step down (he is free to do it anytime) and repeat all these wise words about control and self-respect and so on, to the legally elected president. This is the civil society. Now there is a camp.
-----------------------
Crooked election deserves only this definition.

 

MICHAELGERALDPDEALINO

8:18 PM ET

March 6, 2012

No choice

I must say, it was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. The winner is Putin and the closest runner-up was Zyuganov and his Communist party. Eeeew!

 

DARKNIGHT44

11:52 PM ET

March 6, 2012

No choice

People who were protesting were set up and brainwashed by others, in the same way as were those who voted for Putin. What you don't understand, is that people in Russia new it 4 years ago that Putin will be president again. No one had any doubts! Only west was flipping coins and was guessing what if...

Everything was done to ensure the win, to ensure continuation of some stability and control, pro Russian control, and not pro western! You have to keep it in mind! Have you asked yourself would would happen if US would mingle in Russian internal politics? More McDonalds, more US chicken wings, more export into Russia of westernized way of life! But people are not ready yet for something like that! That's why Putin must continue to lead it, making sure Russian interests are preserved. He is behaving as any good president would, in his own way, possibly not the most democratic and the most peaceful way, but surely a needed way.

None of the opposition leaders has a single clue how to control such a huge and demographically diverse nation. Putin does, he has the experience, and most importantly the support, of the ex-KGB! Imagine if no one listens and no one responds to what the president says?! There will be such a chaos, back into 1990... Free political competition in Russia will disable it for many years to come, and on the international arena will eliminate it completely! That's what US wants, but that's what Putin is trying to prevent.

Russians are very proud people, they will not let anyone build their democracy for them especially the US!

 

DARKNIGHT44

12:00 AM ET

March 7, 2012

ok

This is the main concern. I mean people not here but in the streets. We, West and East, are used to be under rigid and very straight govt mechanism. In the West, it was small, in the East very large, but always was straight. Now you don't know who will be smashed next by crooked log. If we talk about customary things, the price should be paid immediately and from the winner's own table, before going on squashing and squashing and squashingbath and body I must say, it was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. The winner is Putin and the closest runner-up was Zyuganov and his Communist party. Eeeew!

 

MSFZ

8:00 AM ET

March 7, 2012

honour and Selfrespect

Headline should be changed.

 

AR

1:19 AM ET

March 8, 2012

Ioffe is one of many

Ioffe is one of many journalistic propaganda whores of the political West. Her articles are getting more and more out of touch with reality.

 

GENNY

8:31 AM ET

March 9, 2012

Cold war ended in the moral and intellectual freeze

Somebody, turn the temperature button in the political fridge to plus. There is no need of millions to do it, just somebo-o-ody.

 

IRAMENCY

11:32 PM ET

March 10, 2012

love the title

Got my attention. Can't believe this, the article is better than the title. Not sure what to think of this electoral process. Sounds vintage and retroand should be more modernized. What a mess.

 

GENNY

4:08 AM ET

March 13, 2012

In view of what Kissinger told on CNN about his friend Putin

it's clear that the opposite political strategies are fighting now: only fraud and nothing more vs honesty as far as possible, fraud when honesty is unviable. Since nobody tries to plumb whether the honesty bottom is reached, we have fraud and nothing more.

 

BONG GILLIGAN

11:02 PM ET

April 1, 2012

Good leaders in Moscow

In my opinion, i also expect that It should have a cleaner election in Moscow. It need to have good and smart leaders to lead Moscow become stronger and wealthier. It need to have the good and right policies to prevent the violence and corruption fighter. Moscow should reorganized society project to kill violence and civil society. The Moscow Government must have new policies to get peace and stronger