The FT talks with former premier Mikhail Kasyanov, who says that the Kremlin inner circle is planning on using the upcoming elections to “usurp power” and return Russia to “de facto one-party rule.”
Mikhail Kasyanov, premier for four years before Mr Putin sacked him in 2004 and now an opposition presidential hopeful, said the elections could not be democratic, as new rules had made it impossible for parties not approved by the Kremlin to participate.
He warned that Moscow’s moves to slash the number of international election observers and delay issuing invitations were aimed at preventing monitors from reporting to the outside world how undemocratic the poll had become. The Kremlin has insisted the elections will be democratic and it is not breaching any international obligations in reducing observer numbers.Mr Kasyanov’s warning comes as campaigning officially began on Sunday for the polls on December 2. In an interview with the Financial Times, he added that Mr Putin’s plan to head the ticket for the dominant United Russia party was a way of circumventing a constitutional ban on a president serving more than two consecutive terms.Mr Putin has suggested he might become prime minister after stepping down as president next March.“The latest actions by the authorities and President Putin confirm that the group that finds itself in power today wishes to use the next Duma elections to legalise the usurpation of power from Russia’s citizens,” Mr Kasyanov said. “Russia is heading into a dark, totalitarian state, and its citizens should understand that.”His message is, however, not registering with ordinary Russians, with approval ratings for Mr Putin running at 80 per cent or more. Mr Kasyanov barely figures in opinion polls, but complains of being almost completely barred from television and being constantly harassed in attempts to set up his political party, People for Democracy and Justice.“We have a few weeks left to explain to Russian citizens, and our colleagues and partners abroad – don’t play along with these imitation elections,” he said.Mr Kasyanov said rules now requiring parties to have 50,000 members to be officially registered, or collect 200,000 signatures to contest elections, were far beyond European norms.He added that the shift since the last elections in 2003 to proportional representation, and raising the minimum voting share to win seats in parliament from 5 to 7 per cent, would keep smaller parties out of the parliament and leave many citizens with no voice.