Russian Elections Had Only One Possible Outcome: A Putin Victory
One of the first to congratulate president-elect Vladimir Putin on his 63% victory was President Bashar Assad of Syria. Later on, the trickle of congratulations turned into a regular stream. European leaders and others consoled themselves with the knowledge that even without the unfair elections and the documented voting fraud, Vladimir Putin would have won the elections in any case.
Besides, Russia is not Belarus and Europe needs Russian energy too badly to engage in moralizing. The world realizes that they have at least 6 years of Putin left and they will try to make the best of it.
Putin did not bring Russia back to the Soviet Union; he brought it back to the level of Eastern Europe. In the days of the Communist bloc, a formal distinction existed between the political system in the Soviet Union and the political system of the satellite states.
The Soviet Union, officially considered the most advanced detachment of communism, had a single party the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. On paper, countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, had a multiparty system and this reflected their relative backwardness. Needless to say, the Peasant Party or the Christian Democratic Party did not create any trouble for the ruling Communist Parties, but served as mere window dressing. The plan was that when the Eastern Europeans had reached the level of the Soviet Union, they could dispense with these fictitious parties.
Under the Putin system, there is a multiplicity of parties on the ballot., but they all either collaborate with the party in power or are considered irremediable losers like the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Parties such as Parnas, or Yabloko, who offer a liberal approach, or the National Bolshevik party, representing a Russian nationalist approach, were disqualified from the ballot because they were asked to come up with an impossible number of signatures. If they managed the feat, the Putin controlled electoral commission and the courts could then proceed to invalidate the signatures. If a party could surmount this obstacle, it would find itself starved for media attention. Putin controlled both the airwaves and the print media. If his opponents got any attention, it was so as to cast them in a negative light.
As on other issues, Putin and his supporters defend the current state of affairs by pointing to the anarchy that prevailed in the 1990s. After the fall of the Soviet Union, hundreds of parties competed, some of them controlled by the vested interests. It was necessary to tame the system and painstakingly lay a true foundation for democracy. Before it was revealed that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev had basically agreed on position swapping way back and Medvedev was merely a chair warmer for Putin, the assumption was that the foundations were being laid for a two-party system - with Putin's adherents representing the conservative pole and Medvedev representing the liberal pole. From there, the system could evolve. The current elections have shown retrogression rather than progression.
There are those who would console themselves that the Putin system is crumbling, that he will be lucky to last till 2018 - let alone 2024. It is important to recall that the Soviet system maintained itself even under a zombie like Leonid Brezhnev. As long as energy prices remained high, the Soviet Union could offer its citizens material progress. The Putin system, likewise, floats on a tide of energy prices and its continued stability rests on the price of petroleum, gas and other raw materials.