From Russia, With Fraud By ANDREW ROSENTHAL
Having spent four years covering the Soviet Union in the mid-1980's, and as a student of Russia and Russian history since I was in my teens, I've been watching the elections in that long-suffering country with fascination.
I find it quite amazing that Vladimir Putin's party lost as much ground as it did, not because they didn't deserve to, but because I'm not used to Russians expressing their opposition to power openly-even after the fall of the Communist Party. (Actually there are times when I find it hard to see the difference between Mr. Putin's Russia and Communist Russia. Yes, I know there are a lot more bars and restaurants and stuff to buy, but a reliable supply of toilet paper does not make a democracy.)
And it's even more amazing that Mr. Putin lost so much ground despite what elections observers are calling blatant fraud. If you're rigging the ballots, shouldn't you gain ground?
I may be cynical about Russian politics, yet there is no reason for even an optimist to think there will be real reform in Russia. Mr. Putin seems contrite about his losses now, promising there will be changes next year. But clearly he does not include leaving power among those changes. I can't help but assume that Mr. Putin will win the presidency again and find a way to deal with the fact that his party is not as strong in the parliament as it used to be. Like, for instance, by ignoring the parliament.
On the off chance that you're not as interested in the Russian elections as I am, I thought I'd show you a video.
It's all in Russian, but it's pretty simple. A young man with a camera is filming an election official while he fills in blank ballots. The videographer confronts the official and calls for an election observer. The official tries to cover up what he was doing, but eventually pulls the ballots from behind the counter where he is seated. He doesn't seem to care that he was caught.
At this point, what the young man is saying, basically, "This is election fraud. I have the whole thing on camera." Everyone looks confused and uncertain. Except the corrupt official, who tells the young man to go away.
For me, this 21st century apparatchik is indistinguishable from so many Soviet bureaucrats I encountered. Down to the bad tie.