The United Russia Victory Machine

There’s an interesting piece on the Sochi election over at the Power Vertical blog.

Leaving aside for a moment what the election means for Solidarity, there are conclusions to be drawn from the Kremlin’s point of view. First, the victory-producing machine is in perfect working order, with local officials, police, Kremlin-friendly activists and thugs, the courts, the media, the local election commission, and the Central Election Commission all working like gears in a well-engineered machine in a way that is as impressive as it is frightening.


That machine took a faceless bureaucrat who refused to campaign and produced a figure of 77 percent support that will no doubt withstand scrutiny all the way up through the Russian Supreme Court (what happens in Strasbourg is less certain, although it’s a safe bet only our children or grandchildren will be around to find out).

Incidentally, Solidarity activist Garry Kasparov told RFE/RL’s Russian Servicethat the decision not to have Unified Russia candidate Anatoly Pakhomovappear in public during the campaign was a very smart one. Kasparovcrossed paths with Pakhomov at a gathering to mark the World War I-eramass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire and had this to say:”Having seen Pakhomov and having heard his short, confused speech, Iunderstood why he was not allowed to step in front of a microphone infront of a large number of people, because this would have alienatedeven Unified Russia supporters.”

That lesson, of course, is nothing new. Unified Russia has been running stiffs for ages now and maintains its record as the only political party in Russia that has never participated in a campaign debate. (In fairness, there have been some media reportsin recent weeks that Kremlin domestic-politics overseer VladislavSurkov has been holding seminars among Unified Russia officials withthe goal of teaching them how to speak in public; so far, though, thiseffort has borne no fruit and Surkov is almost certainly smart enoughto realize quickly what a hopeless task it is). Its candidates have atradition of disdaining contact with voters and maybe Kasparov has puthis finger on why.