Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Russia: independent pollster named 'foreign agent'

Don't like your showings in the polls? In a democracy, you have to suck it up and up your game. In Russia, you can just force the pollster to shut down using the label 'foreign agent'.

Another Russian institution gets punished
for reporting the truth
The Levada Centre, Russia's main independent pollster, has made the mistake of reporting that Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is down in the polls ahead of Lower House elections on September 18. Now it's been designated a 'foreign agent' and faces closure, like many other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country. Under the dubious law passed by the Russian parliament in 2012, any NGO receiving funds from abroad is designated with the 'foreign agent' label to make it seem like a devious, subversive influence from beyond the Motherland, out to destroy all that is true and Russian.

"Although a new electoral commission head seen as more progressive was appointed in March," the Guardian noted yesterday, "opposition candidates have been marginalised in state-controlled media and even attacked at appearances this year. The elections have been moved from December to September, which is likely to promote low turnout and benefit United Russia."

The President deigned to mention his party's lower ratings in an interview with Bloomberg News,  saying that its numbers had "slightly fallen" (from 39% to 31%, according to Levada). The reason? "They [opposition politicians] all criticise the government," said Putin. "They don't offer solutions to make things better, though. Sometimes they simply say things that even laymen realize are hardly practicable or just unfeasible. However, they look good on screen, scolding and holding up to shame members of the ruling party. They don't say whether they are ready to take on responsibility for making unpopular, but in the long run necessary, decisions."

Unpopular, but necessary - another way of saying, we'll do what the fuck we want, and then claim that we're sacrificing ourselves and our souls by having to make hard decisions. Like Tony Blair claimed after the publication of the Chilcott Report on the disastrous, ill-conceived US-UK invasion of Iraq. "Look, I'm sorry I was wrong, but I had to make a jolly hard decision." But what was harder - invading Iraq or seeking a diplomatic solution? Or, in Putin's case, invading the eastern Ukraine to look like a strong man or seeking a diplomatic solution?

Note: Speaking of Strong Men, there was a delightful question from the Putin interview touching on a touchy subject. Bloomberg's journalist asked the leader about Donald Trump's "great sort of affection to you [sic], almost bordering on the homoerotic". Sadly, Putin does not confess that the attraction is mutual. Under Russia's homophobic legislation, this would have lead to his own arrest.

No comments:

Post a Comment