April 7th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Free trade agreements leave us even more dependent on China

EDITORIAL Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

CANBERRA OBSERVED Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM General protection gives a false sense of security

PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE On celestial politics

GENDER POLITICS Trans ideology awash with big money from big biomed and big pharma

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

CINEMA Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

HUMOUR An Appetite for Diamonds: Porphyry Volpone investigates

MUSIC Power playing: Technique v musicality

CINEMA Peter Rabbit: More Bugs than Beatrix, but lots of fun

BOOK REVIEW We're doomed; but we're not alone

BOOK REVIEW Subcontinent set for Asian century


NATIONAL AFFAIRS The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

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Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 7, 2018

Western media reports denouncing the overwhelming re-election of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia have alleged that Putin won because of ballot rigging and corruption.

These claims are either grossly ill informed or malicious, show no understanding of the reality of Russia today, and seriously mislead the Western world about contemporary Russia.

It is true that Putin’s most outspoken opponent, Alexei Navalny, was prevented from standing for president. Navalny was sentenced in 2013 for embezzling timber worth 16 million rubles ($750,000) from the Kirovles state timber company while working as an adviser to Kirov’s governor.

Persons convicted of corruption cannot stand for President in Russia.

Contrary to the media coverage of Russia’s election, Navalny was not the only opposition candidate. There were eight candidates for president, including Putin, who stood as an independent and was endorsed by several political parties represented in the Russian parliament, the Duma, including the largest party, United Russia.

The other candidates included two communist candidates who between them secured over 12 per cent of the vote, a candidate of the pro-business Party of Growth, and candidates from three opposition parties, Yabloko, Civic Initiative and the Liberal Democratic Party.

The government-run media was overwhelmingly pro-Putin, but people who wanted to support an opposition candidate had every chance to do so. There was little evidence that Navalny’s call for an election boycott had any significant impact.

In the event, Putin was re-elected with about 75 per cent of the popular vote. Around 68 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots, which is typical for countries that have voluntary voting.

There can therefore be no doubt that Putin was fairly elected by the overwhelming majority of Russian voters.

Unpalatable fact

It is unpalatable to many people in the West, but the fact is that Vladimir Putin more closely embodies the values held by most Russians than any other candidate.

It is a paradox that Putin is supported in Russia for many of the reasons he is demonised in the West.

Whether we like it or not, they admire his Russian nationalism, including his occupation of Crimea and of parts of Eastern Ukraine. They are strongly committed to Russia’s 1000-year-old Christian heritage embodied in the Russian Orthodox Church, and applaud the fact that Putin attends the Sacred Liturgy at least on the major feast days.

They agree with the laws prohibiting homosexual propaganda, and support moves, backed by the Russian Orthodox Church and President Putin, to curb the number of abortions in a country facing rapid demographic decline.

The greater part of Russians admire Putin’s intervention in Syria in support of one of Russia’s oldest allies in the region. The success of his intervention, which undoubtedly saved President Bashar al-Assad from military defeat, has now led to a situation where the Syrian civil war could end in victory for the Syrian president.

They are delighted that Russia, which has traditionally regarded itself as the protector of the Christians in the Middle East, has assumed its rightful place in the region as a result of Putin’s intervention in Syria, his rapprochement with Turkey, and his friendly relations with Teheran.

They regard Western Europe as being morally and politically decadent, and are insulted by the moral grandstanding and virtue signalling of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Court.

They remember the anarchy that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the hyperinflation that destroyed a generation’s savings, and blame the country’s decline on Western experts brought in to manage the transition to a market economy, together with wealthy Russian oligarchs who stole government assets when they were privatised.

Russia’s economic decline can be seen in the collapse in value of the Russian ruble. In the 1980s, the ruble’s government-controlled exchange rate was on parity with the U.S. dollar. In the present deregulated market, a ruble has fallen in value to about 1.7 U.S. cents.

Sanctions seen as U.S., EU interference

The sanctions imposed by the United States and countries of Western Europe on Russia after its annexation of Crimea and support for Ukrainian separatists are seen as merely an effort to weaken Russia’s economy.

Allegations of interference in the American elections, of shooting down a passenger jet over the Ukrainian war zone, of cyber-espionage, or of responsibility for the deaths of Russian defectors to the West are ridiculed by the Russian Government and simply not believed by most Russians.

The Russian people are inclined to believe that this is just more anti-Russian propaganda.

President Putin has shown himself extremely adept at exploiting distorted Western perceptions of Russia for his own purposes. He has been able to get away with it because Western sanctions, such as boycotts of the Sochi Winter Olympics and the World Cup, have been sufficient to annoy Russians but insufficient to effect any change.

Until Western leaders show some sophistication in their dealings with Russia, instead of simply reacting to events, global tensions will continue to rise.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm