Today’s gloom-and-doom Times piece concludes that the Russian protest movement “collided with the cold reality of Mr. Putin’s convincing victory” in the March 4 presidential election. Protesters lack a leader and a positive message. Sunday’s demonstrations gave them an opportunity “to cry out together, one more time, for political freedom.” No further demonstrations are scheduled. All is lost. Putin has won.
The White House has signed on to this “Putin has won” version. After five day’s of hesitation, President Obama called Putin, as the White House communiqué reported, to congratulate him on his March 4 victory. Other Western nations sent more muted messages, but not Obama.
Not so fast. Let’s get this straight. Putin did not win a “convincing electoral victory.” Real elections require an opposition, not the sorry rogues’ gallery Putin allowed to oppose him. His Central Electoral Commission disqualified everyone else. As one protester complained: “We can’t go to the courts. We cannot go to the prosecutor.” The streets remain the only option.
As long as we believe the big lie that March 4 was a real presidential election, Putin can triumphantly declare (with tears in his eyes?) democracy alive and well. True: Voters went to the polls. Putin might have won even without the ballot stuffing, carrousel voting, and intimidation. But Putin’s “Party of Scoundrels and Thieves” barely scraped by against the shopworn communists and nationalists in the December 4 parliamentary elections. He could take no more chances.