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How Putin Arranged His Return to the Presidency

The false suspense ended as Dimitry Medvedev announced Putin's candidacy.Here is the story of the buildup; elections are a formality.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 9/26/2011, 2:15 AM

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ended the false suspense about whether Vladimir Putin would be returning to the Kremlin or not. Dmitry Medvedev announced the "return of the king" to a conference of the United Russia party. The suspense resembled a football game where one side is leading by 35 to nothing at halftime but the commentators have to pretend that things could change in the second half.

This was the climax to a prolonged buildup featuring Putin the he-man worshipped by female cheerleaders. The groundwork was being laid for another two terms of Vladimir Putin, while allaying the fears that he could morph into a dead man walking on the model of Leonid Brezhnev, who symbolized the petrified politics of the decaying Soviet Union.

The Russian authorities have now decided that they could dispense with the charade and proceed with the formality of an election and follow with coronation of Vladimir Putin.  An attempt at allowing a pro-system Liberal party in the form of Right Cause fizzled when billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the New Jersey Nets, somehow got the wrong idea that he was the leader of an independent party.

He was brought down to earth when an opposition to his leadership suddenly materialized and he resigned his leadership in a huff, while condemning Dmitry Medvedev's first deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov as a "puppet master" and master manipulator. After his outburst, Prokhorov, who was once featured on television holding an earnest discussion with President Medvedev, became a nonperson.

It was also announced that Prokhorov would not be a member of a presidential commission on modernization for which he obviously has the credentials.

Another sign in the wind was the conviction of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov for "illegal campaigning". Nemtsov who had been barred from the ballot, attempted to persuade voters to vote "against all" by spoiling their ballots. A judge originally acquitted Nemtsov based on a court precedent of the Constitutional Court from 2005 that allows such a campaign.

The prosecution appealed the acquittal and the same judge who acquitted Nemtsov now found him guilty and sentenced him to pay a 1,000 ruble fine.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua, which shares the same interests as Putin, reported that Russia will propose that the U.N. ban the use of the Internet for spreading anti-government propaganda and for military purposes. Governments will be able to restrict activities on the web "to protect national and public security."

A worldwide ban is to be imposed on the use of information technologies to promote "hostile actions and aggression, undermining political, economic and social systems of another state, manipulation of information streams with the purpose of distorting the psychological and spiritual environment of a society or destabilizing a society and state."

This wording is of course a blank check to the authorities to put any troublesome website out of business.

With the Obama administration urgently clinging to the "reset" with Russia and with the Europeans strapped for cash and energy, there is no need for pretense.