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Whose Moral Right?

krasnoyarsk1113.jpgNow this is quite a statement from the Russian president, made today during a visit with road workers in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia: “If the people vote for United Russia, it means that a clear majority of the people put their trust in me, and in turn that means I will have the moral right to hold those in the Duma and the cabinet responsible for the implementation of the tasks that have been set as of today. … As the old saying goes, victory belongs not to those who have might on their side but to those who have truth on their side. This has deep meaning.” I think the president’s comment, which can be read as a preemptive declaration of his intentions, speaks for itself. It appears Putin continues to be under enormous pressure to explain his role following the election of a new president, meaning that the warring board members of the Korporatsiya are still very nervous despite the president’s assurances that although he may leave the presidency, his iron fist shall not.

In some senses, this overt comment expressing the president’s comfort with the “tyranny of the managed majority” makes him a full-fledged Chavista – both he and his Venezuelan counterpart are determined to stay in power forever, amending laws, electoral rules, and the constitution to make it so. In fact, he has vested his opponents with the real moral authority today because he has now openly gone back on his original statements to leave power. For all his public kowtowing to the constitution and the thin legality he wishes to cling to, today we see these statements and promises as hollow and insincere. This is not a legitimate exercise of power, it is an abuse of power, and the president will not be able to genuinely claim the legitimacy and mandate he seeks in these conditions.I also recall a similar declaration of moral right from U.S. President George W. Bush in November of 2004: “I have earned political capital, and I intend to spend it,” he said, referring especially to his administration’s mismanagement of the war in Iraq. For both Bush and Putin, it is fair to ask: what political capital and moral right they had been spending up until now?