Russian politics comes to PSU

Caitlin Taylor | Collegio Reporter

The news that Vladimir Putin will run for a third term as Russian president struck close to home with some PSU students like Inna Fomina.
Fomina says she is against Putin running for a third term and she has noticed the turmoil that it is creating in her home country.
“I was in Russia in 2011, and nobody cared too much for the elections because no one expected Putin to run for a third term,” said Fomina, senior in international studies. “But because he is running, I feel that it’s unfair, undemocratic, and the presidential elections are going to be stolen, just as the Duma (parliamentary elections) was stolen.”
Paul Zagorski, professor of political science, says that a “stolen” election means even if the public votes a completely different way, the government could turn around and put someone else in office.
“Sometimes if people can prove or find that the elections were stolen, then there could be protests so large that they would have to concede and put the true candidate in office,” Zagorski said. “When legislative elections are stolen, Russia is free enough for groups to organize, but it upsets them for feeling like they were being played as fools and that their society was based on corruption.”
Fomina says the power elite in Russia falls into two categories: former KGB Putin supporters and oligarchs who still support Putin but who are scared and looking for a new leader they could trust.
“They claim that opposition demonstrations are pro-U.S. propaganda, and that those people are paid to go out and demonstrate,” Fomina said. “While in fact, pro-Putin demonstrators are administrative workers who are threatened to get fired if they don’t go out and demonstrate for Putin.”
Zagorski says when Putin was first elected he helped turn the economy around.
“Before Putin, Boris Yeltsin was the president from 1991-1999, and he was the president after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Zagorski said. “During Yeltsin’s reign, he presided over economic chaos with huge corruption. During that time, the suicide rate went up as the population rate fell.”
Zagorski says Putin was prime minister while Yeltsin was president. Once Yeltsin stepped down, Putin became popular and was named president.
“If a president in Russia dies or resigns before Jan. 1 of the election year, then the prime minister has the ability to run for president, and that is what Yeltsin did, so Putin could run,” Zagorski said. “But when Putin became president, the economy turned up and people started to prosper.”
Zagorski says that in 2008, instead of amending the constitution, which is possible in Russia, Putin had his associate run for president while he stepped back down to prime minister.
“In the Russian constitution, a president is allowed to preside over two terms back-to-back, but they can step down for a term and have the ability to be re-elected after stepping down for a term,” Zagorski said. “Putin and his associates also wrote the electoral rules so liberal and democratic parties couldn’t compete, also creating more corruption.”
Yana Kirichenko says she is undecided on whether she likes the idea of Putin running for re-election.
“I personally think that Putin has done a lot for Russia. Some things good and some not so good,” said Kirichenko, senior in finance. “At one side, I think that Putin can bring a lot more to the table as president. However, I personally think it should be the people who decide instead of him, or whoever, forging the votes.”
Kirichenko says she thinks the public isn’t always aware of what is happening in the country.
“Even if they do know, there is not much we can do,” Kirichenko said. “I, personally, follow the events from a distance, and I am waiting to see how they are going to resolve themselves, with or without the help from other politicians.”
Zagorski says he is also waiting to see how things turn out. He says the real issue will be what happens down the road.
“The problem will still be there, and people will still feel the same way,” Zagorski said.
Fomina says she believes Putin will win the upcoming elections, and she is unsure what he will do after that. She says she thinks Russia deserves a leader who will help the people achieve a better way of life.
“It’s disturbing, and his re-election is one more reason for me not to go back,” Fomina said. “I want to see more freedom and liberty in my country, I want people to become smarter, and I want them to start thinking individually, and not just follow the stream. I think people deserve the ruler they determine. They could make a change if they unite, but they lack a real leader. The opposition is extremely divided, and there is no one person who can express their discontent.”

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