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Russian Elections: The Latin American Model

March 3rd, 2009
Will the generals hold? (AP)

Will the generals hold? (AP)

When you read about elections in Russia today, think of Mexico in 1970. Basically, the ruling government party cheats to run up the score but would win either way. On the flip side, the opposition is divided and has little legitimacy. The people know that elections will change nothing and have little interest in electoral politics. If angered, the likely outcome is a riot rather than a protest vote.

And so it went with low-stakes elections in Russia on March 1. While voting was widespread (all but 4 of Russia’s 83 territories faced elections), Radio Free Europe reports:

Unified Russia’s share of the vote in the regional elections ranged from 79.3 in Tatarstan to 42.46 percent in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug…According to a poll released last week by the Levada research center, 78 percent of Russians have a favorable view of Putin and 71 percent are positive about Medvedev. Those figures remain basically unchanged over the last year.

Russian generals could do worse.

Russian generals could do worse.

With popularity numbers like that, the threat most likely will not come from “the people.” The key indicator that the Putin regime is in danger would be high-ranking generals fleeing to the West with their stolen treasure and trophy wives. As the BBC reported last year:

A third of all money spent by the Russian government on its armed forces is lost to corruption, a senior Russian official has warned…If Mr Kanshin’s figures are correct, it would mean about $13bn is lost to military corruption annually.

Everybody with power is trying to steal as much as fast as they can. The real danger to the regime is a coup by the captains and majors who do the grunt work of running the state and don’t have enough hard currency to go into exile. This was the pattern of Latin American regime change circa 1970 and stands as the best historical analogy to present-day Russia.

As it stands, there are no indications that such a coup is imminent, which means that the Putin-Medvedev regime is quite secure.

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  1. March 3rd, 2009 at 14:01 | #1

    this is really stupid.

  2. March 3rd, 2009 at 15:11 | #2

    @Paul
    We surrender. Your analytical rigor is overwhelming.

  3. Vlad
    March 3rd, 2009 at 18:04 | #3

    “As it stands, there are no indications that such a coup is imminent, which means that the Putin-Medvedev regime is quite secure.”

    Quite a pointless article then!

  4. March 3rd, 2009 at 18:12 | #4

    The point is to raise the Latin American model, Vlad, not predict a coup.

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