Monday, November 26, 2007

Putin Strikes Again

So Putin has now said that the US is meddling in the upcoming Russian Parliament elections. Hmm. The US mess with an overseas election? Never, but his claims are not that the US is tampering with ballots or anything of that nature. His claim is that the US State Department has asked a group of election observers, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, who recently cancelled their trip to Russia, not to show up to monitor the election. A State Department official has commented that there was no interference from the US. His argument is that the US wants to call the legitimacy of the election into question because there is no one there to monitor it to make sure that it is being held properly.

There is a history though between this group and Putin. Putin's government delayed the visas that the monitors were supposed to receive and said that the group must be cut down to 70 people, from the 400 that were used in the last Parliamentary election. It is evident that this group probably got fed up with dealing with Putin. In the 2004 election, this group concluded that the election had not been conducted fairly at all, so it is obvious why Putin would not want them present. He has an even more hard line approach than he had in 2004, and he probably has concerns about the legitimacy of this election.

It does not help a group associated with Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, when you have been known to put your dissenters in prison. The latest example was seen this past weekend when Garry Kasparov, leader of the Other Russia movement and former chess champion, was arrested after trying to deliver a letter calling into question the methods that were being used for the elections. The rallies and marches that his group had implemented earlier had been broken up by riot police officers as well and hundreds were detained. The international community has called for his release, but it was to no avail. The Soviet-style dictatorship that Kasparov has been warning about seems to now be a reality. So who could blame a group of election monitors, who champion human rights, for not wanting to go into a country who does not want them there and who has a history of treating dissenters with such disdain.

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