Monday, September 27, 2004

The Ticking Clock

Yevgenia Albats, writing in the Moscow Times,under the rubric Putin's Days Are Numbered:

In the midst of all the bad news coming out of Russia, last week offered some hope. A survey conducted by the pro-Kremlin Public Opinion Foundation revealed that despite a massive advertising campaign on state television, ordinary Russians do not support President Vladimir Putin's proposed reforms, including the appointment of regional leaders.

Sixty-one percent of respondents from across the country voiced their opposition to the proposal, which would for all intents and purposes allow the Kremlin to handpick regional leaders. The poll showed that an overwhelming majority of Russians also oppose Putin's proposal to scrap the election of State Duma deputies from single-mandate districts. Instead, the lower house is to be composed exclusively of candidates elected from party lists, effectively excluding the election of independent candidates. Only 9 percent of respondents supported this change. Meanwhile, 50 percent said they trust deputies elected from single-mandate districts.

Albats notes that

Despite all the lies, deception and repression, resistance to the rise of the omnipotent state is still alive in society, as recent poll results suggest. More evidence has come from television managers and journalists, often considered the most corrupt and obedient part of the country's elite. More than one-quarter of the members of the Academy of Russian Television signed an open letter last week acknowledging state censorship of the electronic media. Three programs pulled off the air recently -- NTV's "Svoboda Slova," "Krasnaya Strela" and "Namedni" -- received the academy's TEFI award Friday night. Meanwhile, television personalities who decided that loyalty to the state was more important than telling the truth to their viewers came up empty-handed. Millions of viewers witnessed the disgust with which they were greeted by their colleagues -- a telling sign of growing disillusionment among a sector of the elite heavily courted by the Putin administration with high salaries and exceptional access to information.

Things may get worse -- much worse -- before the Putin regime collapses. But one thing is now clear: To suppress the growing opposition to his rule, Putin would have to resort to Stalinesque measures. But Putin is no Stalin, and Russia in the 21st century differs fundamentally from Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, even if some Western analysts argue to the contrary. The clock is ticking for Putin's Kremlin, and there are more and more of us who intend to make sure the clock doesn't stop.

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