This month’s unanimous Assy goes to everyone’s favourite stuntman politician – Vladimir Putin. Putin won the Russian presidential election for a third time on March 4, amid accusations of widespread voter fraud. He was the Russian President from 2000-2008, but had to step down due to a constitutional rule that limits presidents to two successive terms. He very cheekily got around this by appointing a primarily figurehead successor in Dmitry Medvedev to run in his place, while still remaining in politics through the lesser role of Prime Minister. Once in power, Medvedev passed a new law extending the term of President to 6 years from 2012 onwards and then announced late last year that he would not run for President in 2012, thus paving the way for the Great Putin to return to the Presidency for a potential 12 years.
Putin was very popular in Russia while president, largely due to the massive economic growth Russia achieved under his rule, but the global economic crisis of 2008 hit Russia particularly hard with the fall in price of its main exports – oil and gas. Since Medvedev announced last fall he would step aside for Putin to run in the recent election, Putin’s popularity has plummeted in major urban areas and amongst the young. This unpopularity turned into widespread protest in the December parliamentary elections. A protest not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union, which was all directed at a man now viewed foremost as corrupt.
Massive protests occurred in Moscow the day after the elections, but in a truly Stalin-esque manner, the protests were scattered by riot police and hundreds were arrested, including opposition leaders, and charged with possible sentences of up to 2 years in jail. Under Putin, Russia has ranked extremely low on the press freedom index and he has successfully managed to prevent any real form of opposition developing. However, he has now plummeted to a new autocratic low in his crushing of the latest protests.
No politician can quite match Putin for public stunts and photo-ops. From his flying of jets and firefighting planes and driving of motorbikes and race cars, to his crazy bare-chested Siberian adventures hunting wild animals, the ex-KGB man has carefully crafted a tough guy image, which is why it was so surprisingly comical to see him with a tear in his eye while delivering his victory speech. Made all the more lame by the fact he’s never shown an ounce of emotion in public over the deaths of dozens of Russians in both the Beslan and Moscow Theatre hostage crisis’, or the Kursk sinking.
He was also made the fool a couple of weeks ago, when one of his most prominent stunts involving his alleged “saving” of an escaped endangered Siberian Tiger by tranquilizer gun four years ago, has been revealed to have now been an elaborate fabrication. Apparently, Serga the tiger was taken from a zoo, tranquilized and forced to await in the wild for a notoriously late arriving Putin, who was originally reported to have “saved the day” by tranquilizing him in a deadly tiger to asshole encounter. Serga actually died days later from the excessive amount of tranquilizers used on him.
As if this was not all bad enough for Putey, two days ago a batch of documents were leaked over the internet which reveal that the Russian government was warned 20 years ago to not appoint him to “any other positions” until a corruption scandal involving him was resolved. The scandal involved members of St Petersburg city council approving a resolution calling on the mayor Anatoly Sobchak, to sack Putin for corruption. However, Sobchak was a close friend of Putin’s and since this is Russia, he refused and soon after promoted him to deputy. No criminal investigation was ever subsequently carried out.
While it is true Russia has little democratic history, it is assholes like Vladimir Putin above all else, who ensure that it stays that way. See Putin’s Race for Russian President Cartoon