I don’t usually delve into Russian presidential politics that deeply. As I’ve written before, there isn’t much to get your teeth into in a 35-minute electoral cycle, featuring candidates who all make Mitt Romney look scintillating. I’m not holding out a lot of hope that this year is going to be much different. Protest-shmotest seems to be a succinct evaluation of what passes for the white condom movement born of a fit of pique when Dmitry Medvedev assured Russia’s electorate that he and Prime Minister Putin “had decided to switch jobs a long time ago.” Things looked for a moment like they might get interesting when smart phones caught all kinds of voter irregularity during the normally stultifying Duma elections last December. A couple of Saturday afternoons in the fresh air later and the new Russian revolutionaries seem to have debunked either to the Seychelles or into hibernation, which isn’t surprising really: since Medvedev cancelled Daylight Savings Time the sun doesn’t come up until 11 a.m. Thanks Dima!
This time around, Revolutionarius Interruptus opposition is vaguely more interesting than last time. Aging playboy Boris Nemstov is still vaguely on radar screen (though he needs to loose the black T-shirt look if you ask me – and no one ever ever does.) Russians continue to ignore their Cassandra, Gregory Yavlinsky of Yabloko. In addition to Soviet-era granite statue Gennady Zyuganov, who heads the Communist Party, and Russia’s answer to Glenn Beck, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democrats (neither Liberal nor Democratic), we have Yale-baptized celebrity-blogger, Aleksey Navalny and the one my fellow Americans call “the New Jersey Nets Guy,” billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. My money was on Navalny (go ahead, call me an Ivy League elitist) until he went on a little hike with the ultra nationalist that has us all still scratching our heads.
Prokhorov looks likely to garner the 2-million signatures he needs to run in March and hehas released his political talking points on his web site. Money clearly no object which begs the following question: teal…really? And that picture of Vladimir Putin as Darth Vader lifted from Facebook? Couldn’t do better than that?
I don’t know who is in charge of the campaign – actually, you know what? That is a bold face lie – I do know who is in charge of the campaign — I know exactly who is in charge of the campaign. Which is why I’m baffled by the clunky, overdramatic, and (sorry – can’t resist this) sloppily copy-edited content on Prokhorov’s English-language site. This is a slick, cosmopolitan, take-no-prisioners crowd, but what can they be thinking? His points are all over the place – some put him right of Genghis Khan, others left of Barney Frank, and a few locate the New Jersey Nets Guy squarely only one exit short of La-La Land.
There are admittedly some good, possibly great and frankly long-overdue agenda items:
- Bring back direct election of regional governors and mayors.
- Provide working opportunities for young mothers and those with large families.
- Provide job opportunities and public facilities for the handicapped.
- Encourage Russians to think as individuals, rather than “mass” or “society.”
In the “How’s that working out for you?” column we have:
- Defense spending not to exceed spending on health care.
- The creation of a single global currency based on the Euro and the Ruble.
It is these points, however, that really make me scratch my head:
- Investment in culture is the driving force for the country’s modernization providing fresh stimulus for the economic development of the provinces.
- President to leave his post voluntarily after 5 years.
- Cancellation of the practice of early voting and absentee ballots.
- Privatization of all state companies, with all funds channeled to the State Pension Fund. (I’m no economist, but isn’t that robbing Peter to pay Paul?)
- The consumer is the end-of-the-line taxpayer, not the producer.
- Retirement age related (I think they mean pegged) to the number of children in the family. (Huh?)
- Only Higher Education in fields that provide skills the economy particularly needs is free.
Finally, because no one ever ever ever asks, here is some unsolicited advice:
- With metaphors, you know, less is more. (“A 21st Century person is not a cog in some bureaucratic machine. And we as modern Russians are no longer willing to march in lockstep to a tune dictated from above.”)
- Hedge your bets: Avoid calling the nationalists, or indeed anyone, “vulgar.”
Even in New Jersey.
What’s your take on Russia’s upcoming presidential election? Have you got a favorite horse in the race? What do you make of retirement age pegged to the number of children?