March 25, 2004

What Would Happen to An Honest Russian Pol?

Let me draw out a thought experiment. It's 2004 and next week somebody in Moscow invents the new Rubik's cube. A week later, his good buddy invents the next Tetris. They become near instant billionaires, all honestly, by the end of the year. by the end of 2006 they've decided to invest some of their wealth into creating an honest political movement that will compete with the security services dominated Putin followers so that elections in 2008 will have a choice.

So, assuming that there are no skeletons in their closets, they have paid all their taxes, and they are proposing a sane ideology, what would happen to them and their dream of a new Russian political pole? Such a movement would be a tremendously positive step in one sense, because it would provide a serious alternative to the current administration without giving in to corruption or bringing back any failed totalitarian retreads.

There are two major possibilities. First, Putin the thug emerges and in a campaign of dirty tricks and skullduggery destroys them and hounds them out of the country. This is the fear that people who believe in the idea of Russia backsliding into a new authoritarianism are worried about.

The second possibility is a bit more hopeful. Putin, the believer in the dictatorship of law, emerges from the Kremlin and runs a clean campaign on his record and probably clobbers them anyway but the new movement gains considerable parliamentary representation and draws a lot of strength away from the crazier elements of Russian politics.

So which scenario will likely happen? It's hard to tell. The truth is that Putin's spy dominated government is plausibly undercutting the rotten remnants of the old system, both Soviet and Yeltsin era. If they are just cleaning out the corrupt rich and laying the stage for the development of new, honestly earned fortunes, they will hold power for quite some time and eventually be beaten by some of the clean parties they make possible. But we won't know the reality of it until new Russian political movements without ties to dirty politicians and dirty money emerge to challenge Putin's commitment to law and order in the electoral process.

Posted by TMLutas at March 25, 2004 04:25 PM