Ballot-rigging Bathos

Yesterday we mentioned a New York Times piece about the lack of mass outrage regarding the falsification of election results on October 11.  All in all, there seems to be a general feeling that the outcry about vote-rigging has turned out to be a damp squib.  Nikolaus von Twickel in the Moscow Times suggests that the noise about democratic reforms, so resonant in the immediate aftermath of the event, has been all but silenced. 

Two weeks after the unprecedented walkout of the State Duma’s three opposition parties, little seems left of the whiff of democracy that surfaced so suddenly.

President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to yield to their demands over the weekend, meeting with leaders of the Just Russia, Liberal Democrat and the Communist parties to discuss Oct. 11 regional elections that they say were blatantly falsified in favor of the ruling United Russia party.

But the outcome of Saturday’s talks resembled a fizzle after the uproar that led to it: Medvedev declared that the country was moving forward on the path of democracy and that he was open to changing election laws favoring United Russia. And opposition party leaders said they were happy with that.

he Kremlin also downplayed the meeting’s emergency character, rebranding it as a routine roundtable between the president and the heads of the Duma’s four factions, including United Russia, that had been originally scheduled for Tuesday.

Medvedev also placed the disputed elections low on the agenda, focusing rather on the country’s proposals to the Group of 20 and his planned state-of-the-nation address.

The result seemed to give credence to skeptics’ claims that the Duma walkout was a Kremlin-orchestrated affair.

“This was just a demonstration to make us believe that apparently we have democracy and democratic procedures,” Ilya Yashin, a leading member of the Solidarity opposition movement, told The Moscow Times.

All participants of Saturday’s meeting were positive about it afterward, and even Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who led the Oct. 14 walkout, said he thought it was “excellent.”

Yashin said this merely showed that the Duma opposition parties had been co-opted by the Kremlin. “These are systemic parties that coordinate their actions with the presidential administration,” he said.

The opposition factions have denied working with the Kremlin in the past.

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