RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 8 March 2012

ELECTION. Results here in Russian on the CEC site and in English at RIAN. Putin 63.6%, Zyuganov 17.18%, Prokhorov 7.98%, Zhirinovskiy 6.22% (fourth place for once!), Mironov 3.86%. Turnout 65.3%. Turnout in Moscow City and St Petersburg about 50%. Chechnya was a little more subdued this time: a mere 94.89% turnout with only 99.76% for Putin. Interesting from the point of view of the polls: Putin did better than FOM or VTsIOM predicted but on the low range of Levada’s 63-66%. Zyuganov did better than anyone predicted, beating the average estimate by 20%, and Zhirinovskiy did somewhat worse (but they share a sector of the electorate and their total was very close to the estimate); Prokhorov hit the average prediction but Mironov was significantly worse at only about 65% of the prediction. But, generally speaking not large variations from the predicted results and Putin’s lead over perennial runner-up Zyuganov of three and a half to one is hard to pretend was manufactured. (Which isn’t stopping people from trying with what can only be an intentional misuse of statistics).Turnout was below average but still respectable. I have the feeling that the Western connection of the protestors (and I repeat that the US Ambassador’s meeting with the opposition was a gift) induced some people to vote Putin who might not otherwise (à la Voter 2’s story). Prokhorov may have a future as the non-Communist anti-Putin (a Forbes survey rated him the second-most respected billionaire) (perhaps in the cabinet, Putin suggests). Mironov, however, may not have much of a political future.

TURNOUT. I find the low turnout in Moscow especially and in St Petersburg to a lesser degree very curious. I have three possible explanations (which could be combined in different proportions in different individuals). 1. When the moment came, they couldn’t actually bring themselves to vote for one of the others, so they stayed home. 2. Protesting is cool, voting is uncool. 3. The “new young people” have given up on politics, for now anyway, and will put their energies into something else. One would have thought, after all the excitement, that there would have been a bigger anti-Putin turnout. As it was Putin got less than 50% in Moscow City. I agree with Putin when he said the opposition will become a real political force when they are able to come up with proposals on the future development of the country and prove that their proposals are desirable”. Being against Putin, but not bothering to vote, is not that. Which is not to say that something important isn’t in motion; Russian politics are far too top-down; they badly need an infusion of bottom-up.

PROTESTS. The post election protest pulled only 10K or so (“only” – interesting writing that: last year that would have been a very large number). City Hall has authorised up to 50K on Saturday. I think the protest movement is over for now, or at least will be reduced to the usuals.

RUSSIAN ELECTORAL REALITY. Anatoly Karlin has written the best single thing I have ever seen on electoral reality in Russia. I cannot recommend it too highly – everything is in it. Here it is; read it. Much better than the rubbish in the MSM.

TYPING CLASS. Reuters’ headline and story – which make no mention at all of opinion polls – “Vladimir Putin ‘elected Russian president’, opponents allege fraud” has been re-typed by thousands of outlets. AP’s “Riot police break up anti-Putin protest in Moscow” ditto; it’s only when you read down the account that you learn that the arrests came when some tried to turn it into a sit-in (not authorised in the permit) after several thousand had protested without interference by the police. But the program has been a success – millions of people now believe that Putin’s and United Russia’s victories were fraudulent.

THE RETURN. Putin met with editors of some Western news outlets and said – they obviously weren’t listening the first two times: “I will repeat for the third time (the translation is clearly not coming across very well): he and I represent the same political force; we arranged that the presidency would be contested by whoever enjoyed the better standing and had the greater chance of winning.” So that’s the official reason. He reiterated, as he and Medvedev have done many times before, that they are carrying out the same program.

POLITKOVSKAYA MURDER. Some interesting developments. The senior police officer, who appears to have been the sub-contractor for the murder is singing. According to Kommersant he believes that Berezovskiy and Zakayev “could have been” behind it and the supplier of the murder weapon has been identified.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)