The 4th of March 2012, the Russian people voted and whether some liked it or not, they overwhelmingly voted for VladimirPutin to lead Russia until 2018. After the counting of votes of 99.3% of the ballot papers, Vladimir Putin was ahead with 63.6% of the votes, followed by Gennady Zyuganov (17.19%) andMikhail Prokhorov (7.98%). Vladimir Zhirinovsky got6.22% and Sergey Mironov 3.85%. The participation ratestood at 65%. The outcome of this election is simply the confirmation that all sincere and lucid analysts had expected, namely Vladimir Putin getting a score between 50 and 65% in the first round. Indeed, all the opinion polls expected him to be the winner of the 1st round. This
vote is also a geopolitical event whose scope the vast majority ofcommentators are still unaware of. The election of Vladimir Putin for a third mandate is incomprehensible through the French media prism but yet is part of a perfectly coherent and historical Russian sequence
In March 2000 when Vladimir Putin was elected with just over 50% of the votes, the country was ravaged by a post-Soviet decade of “eltsinism” and had just come out from a major economic crisis. Powered by the Yeltsin system, Vladimir Putin‘s election by the Russian population wasmostly done bydefault. This uunknown politician appeared very quickly however, as a strong man. His authoritarian and dry style was perceived positively by the Russian population. Vladimir Putin stood from the early 2000s as a sort of saviorwho restored the order. His second election in 2004 with nearly 70% of the votes in the first round is a plebiscite. The second mandate of Vladimir Putin is a period ofunquestionable economic recovery for Russia. When Putin gave way to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, the authority of the state was more or less fully restored, and a party of government was established. Right in the middle of this economic improvement, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President in March 2008 with 72% of the votes. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis hit Russia as well as a new war in the Caucasus. In 2009 the Medvedev presidency suffered from the social consequences of the crisis and of the difficulties in modernizing the country as quickly as desired. International pressure was also higher and during the last year of his term, the Russian diplomacy was mistreated in Libya
or in Europe (antimissile defense shield). In the end, Medvedev’s foreign policy was criticized in Russia. Following the parliamentary elections last December,
massive opposition demonstrations were held in the major cities across the country. Those demonstrations were the si gn for some foreign commentators that Russia had begun its revolution against the “Putin system”. On the other hand, others saw these events as being an embryo of destabilization orchestrated from outside Russia, along with the lines of Color revolutions. Many clues suggest that the latter scenario was plausible.
Paradoxically, this risk ofa revolution of Colour has unified the public opinion and greatly contributed to the very high score of Vladimir Putin. The analyst Jean-Robert Raviot has clearly defined this phenomenon by defining three Russias. The first Russia is the most publicized because it is the westernized Russia, the one of the “Moscobourgeois” or metropolitan bourgeois baptized “middle class” by the commentators. The second Russia is the provincial one. It is peri-urban, patriot and represents the vast majority of Russia. Weakened by the crisis, it also represents the majority in favor of Vladimir Putin. Third, there is the Russia of the non-Russian peripheries, controlled by ethnocracies allied to the Kremlin and where the votes are fairly homogeneous and in favor of the central power. Indeed, Moscow and St. Petersburg are the only cities in which the results, taken alone, could have led to a second round between Putin and Prokhorov. But if this rich, urbanized and Europeanized Russia of the cities less voted Putin than the rest of the country, it still remains a minority.Conversely, the small
and medium towns, in fact rural Russia, are much more conservative and popular. By massively voting for Vladimir Putin, they showed concernsregarding possible disruptions. Since the early 2000s, Russia is continuing its recovery, and the disorders of the first decade following the collapse of the USSR have profoundly affected people’s minds. The Russian people havetherefore chosen Vladimir Putin, rejecting outside interference, and wishing that the policy initiated 12 years ago now be continued.
The stable score of Gennady Zyuganov, candidate of he Communist Party, shows that the party has reached its maximum. 4 or 5% of its last December voters fell back on Michael Prokhorov(the Communist Party had reached 19% at the general elections, benefiting from its status of major competitor to Putin and of the anti-Putin vote). Michael Prokhorovhas probably channeled the majority of the votes of the opponents those past months. He in fact got 20% in Moscow and 15.5% in St. Petersburg. The low score of Vladimir Zhirinovsky is likely to be related with the high score of Vladimir Putin: many Liberal Democratic Party of Russia voters probably voted for Putin in the first round. This low score seems to announce the decline of the party, that one cannot imagine surviving without its charismatic leader. In the end, the crushing defeat of the candidate Mironov (3.46%) while his party had got a very high score in the general elections, basically shows that Russian voters reject any social Democrat candidate too. In order to deny this popular support to Putin they obviously can neither understand nor admit, many foreign commentators will write that the elections were rigged andthat many frauds in favor of Vladimir Putin had been identified.
Yet, as in the general elections, the vast majority of these fraud charges will prove to be unfounded: the number of actual cases of fraud should not exceed about300, against 437 during the general elections last December, yet so criticized.
However, the observers of the CIS, of the SCO or even independent observers, said that the voting took place normally and that the election was fair. They even suggested that the elections to the European Parliament should use the same monitoring system that Vladimir Putin put into place (96,000polling stations were filmedby 91,000webcams). As such, if Michael Prokhorov came first inFrance and in England, the
Russians living in Germany and in Spain more voted for VladimirPutin, while in Germany United Russia had obtaineda poor score in the December general elections, even ending up behind the liberal party Yabloko.
What will happen now?
The opposition announced it will continue to demonstrate,as it already did lastMonday, following the results.But the demonstration gathered only 10,000 people, and theclimate seems to have changed already. Michael Prokhorov, just like Boris Nemtsov, was heavily booed during the demonstration. On the contrary, Alexey Navalny and Sergey Udaltsov (respectively a liberal nationalist and a far left wing, both allied against Putin) were given a standing ovation.As the demonstration was ending, they refused to leave the premises and called for occupying the place. They caused the arrest of300or 400 diehards who accompanied them, to the delight of foreign TV cameras. Later on a group of one
hundred ultranationaliststried to march on the Kremlin,before the police also arrested them.
One can therefore wonder whether the legal opposition has not crystallized itself around Michael Prokhorov and if, in the end, the most radical (and non political) fringe of this disparate opposition, will not seek to create more trouble by refusing to acknowledge an election that nobody contests any longer worldwide.