Unrest Shakes Up Politics In Russia
Jackie Northam
Monday, January 23, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Font size: A | A | A | A |

Tens of thousands of people filled an avenue in Moscow on Christmas Eve to protest the alleged rigging of the Dec. 4 parliamentary polls in a challenge to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's authority.
Tens of thousands of people filled an avenue in Moscow on Christmas Eve to protest the alleged rigging of the Dec. 4 parliamentary polls in a challenge to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin's authority.
Yuri Kadobnov | AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to win the presidential election in March. But many Russians are angry over alleged ballot rigging during recent parliamentary elections and the way Putin has maneuvered to return to the office he held from 2000 to 2008.

   
Related Articles
New U.S. Ambassador Already Facing Critics In Russia
Ambassador Michael McFaul faces big challenges as the U.S. and Russia differ on many issues.
Russia's Debt Rating Downgraded Over Protests
Russia By Rail: One Last Look
A trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway took two weeks, seven time zones and endless cups of hot tea.
In Russia, Modern 'Revolution' Comes At Its Own Pace
Many Russians say the government is letting them down. They want change, but gradually.
In Russia's Far East, A Frayed Link To Moscow
Since the Soviet breakup, many Russians feel the country has lost its national identity.
Russian Activists Turn To Social Media
Government critics are using the Internet to plan the next round of protests against Vladimir Putin.

On a recent cold, gray day in Moscow, several dozen reporters and photographers milled about restlessly on the main floor of the Central Election Commission of Russia.

The person they were waiting to see was supposed to be there at 10 a.m. Nearly six hours later, Mikhail Prokhorov, appeared at the front door and smiled for the cameras.

Prokhorov is one of the richest men in Russia, making most of his fortune in nickel mining. The 46-year-old is also the owner of the New Jersey Nets, and now he's running for president of Russia. He's got the money to organize, plenty of connections and so far, no problems from the Kremlin.

Prokhorov was at the election commission to hand in more than 2 million signed forms necessary to endorse his candidacy. Quite a feat, considering he only had one month to collect the names. He looked stiff and uncomfortable, not what you would call a natural candidate. There is ongoing criticism that Prime Minister Putin brought Prokhorov into the presidential race to help split the opposition. Prokhorov denies it.

"Anything I say now will not be very convincing. So it is necessary to prove this not by words but by deeds," Prokhorov says. "That's what I've always done when I worked in business."

Prokhorov hopes to appeal to middle-class voters, who are fed up with endemic corruption and the political elite, especially Putin. And they've taken to the streets to demand change.

The mass protests that erupted in December seem to have breathed new life into the opposition in Russia; everything from the political old guard, to artists and writers and to a new breed of activists using the Internet to keep the protests alive.

One of the galvanizing forces behind the opposition is a 35-year-old lawyer named Alexei Navalny. Navalny is young, brash and capable of invigorating the crowds. He calls United Russia, the ruling party, the party of crooks and thieves. But Navalny isn't running for president, he says he won't until he's sure the elections will be free and fair.

In fact, there's no one person leading the many activists and new movements sharing the stage with Navalny. Commentator Konstantin von Eggert says at some point they'll have to decide whether to stay together and pursue political aims, or split up. Otherwise, the protests could peter out.

"People cannot live on emotions forever, and this is the problem with this movement," von Eggert says. "It will eventually have to take some organized forms to which people could relate without being called to the streets every third week."

But organizing isn't always easy since the Kremlin can throw up obstacles that are impossible to clear.

In a cramped, dingy basement is the office of Vladimir Ryzhkov, the co-chair of the liberal People's Freedom party. Ryzhkov was in the Duma, the parliament, for more than a decade, until the Kremlin refused to allow his party to register. Ryzhkov says it is part of Putin's systematic tightening of political freedom.

"We can't participate in elections, in any elections, on any level," Ryzhkov says. "Putin closed more than 40 political parties for the last four years. Now we have only 7 registered political parties and only registered political parties can participate in elections."

Those registered parties include the Communists, who are expected to place a distant second in the presidential election, a hard-right party and every ideology in between. None of which is expected to garner many votes. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]



This article is filed in: World News, Home Page Top Stories, News

Also in World News  
EU Human Rights Court Could Be Last Stop For German Claiming CIA Kidnapping
Khaled El-Masri says he was mistakenly flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan by the CIA.

Civilians Flee, Soldiers Dig In On Sudanese Frontier
The U.N. is threatening both Sudans with sanctions if they can't reverse their escalating feud.

How To Address France's New, Unmarried First Lady
France's new president was inaugurated Tuesday, and he's moving into the presidential palace with his longtime "companion." Host Michel Martin and the Beauty Shop ladies weigh in on political protocol when it comes to heads of state, politicians and their unmarried significant others.

At Trial, Serb Gen. Mladic Taunts Survivors With Throat-Cutting Gesture
Charged with 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, he remains defiant.

Atlanta Opens New International Terminal
Officials hope the facility means more international businesses will choose to locate in Georgia.

Comments  
Post a Comment