Anger on the streets of Russia

by our European Affairs correspondent

THOUSANDS of riot police have been rushed to Moscow and St Petersburg to quell the anger on the streets following last Sunday’s disputed parliamentary elections, which many claim were rigged by the government. Though the front of Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin was once again returned to office his United Russia party had its overall majority cut to 13 seats in the State Duma, the Russian parliament.

Though the ruling party lost ten per cent of its vote Putin still regarded it as a good result. “There were losses but it’s inevitable for any political force, especially the one that has been ruling the country for years,” the Russian premier said.

Putin’s party retains 238 seats in the Duma, down 77 from the last election in 2007. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the biggest communist movement in the country and the traditional leader of the opposition in parliament, won an extra 35 seats.

But the communists still trail well behind with just 92 members in the new parliament. The social-democratic Just Russia party came third with 64, up 26 on 2007 and the nationalist bloc that is misleadingly called the Liberal Democrats was up 16 with 56 seats in the new legislature.

Though the country is the world’s leading natural gas exporter and the second leading oil exporter Russia has not been immune from the global economic crisis that has plunged the entire capitalist world into the deepest slump since the great crash of 1929. While the oligarchs, spivs and profiteers who work with the government rake in millions of roubles, working people struggle to survive.

Putin’s party is now facing a backlash of anger at the corruption, nepotism and inefficiency that the opposition say starts right at the top.

The protests in Moscow have been led by the vocal middle strata pressure groups much loved by the ruling class of western Europe and the United States whose interests they serve. They have been publicly backed by the United States.

And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who presided over the counter-revolution that destroyed the USSR, has jumped on the band-wagon to call on the Russian authorities to acknowledge the recent street protests, annul the results of Sunday’s parliamentary election and hold a new poll.

But complaints about ballot rigging go far beyond the human rights gang. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov says he had not seen so many violations even during Yeltsin’s stay in power and CPRF leaders maintain they were robbed of a third of their votes by corrupt officials working for Putin.