Putin on the dictator act

His police arrested and reportedly beat chess master/political opponent Garry Kasparov on Saturday.

A judge ruled Monday that former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has to serve out the five-day jail sentence he received after leading a protest of President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police.

Kasparov was convicted of organizing an unsanctioned procession, chanting anti-government slogans, and resisting arrest Saturday, eight days before parliamentary elections.

Chanting anti-government slogans is a crime? In this country, it’s the animating principle of the dominant political party. Anyway.

Several journalists have been shot over the past year or so, and last month the Russian government shut down a popular meeting place for journalists.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Saturday, October 27, condemned the closure by Russian fire authorities of the House of Journalists, a popular meeting place for reporters in central Moscow.

Russia’s parliamentary elections are coming up on Sunday, and while Putin isn’t on the ballot for another term, his party, United Russia, is on the ballot and is expected to win a landslide. Ahead of that Putin is running an advance game of slamming the US and strongly hinting that the bad days of the dangerous Russian bear are back.

President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of pressuring respected international monitors to stay away from Sunday’s parliamentary elections, a decision that hurts the credibility of balloting that is expected to bolster his power.

The election monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had said that Russia has so severely restricted its ability to watch the elections that it could not monitor them.

But Putin blamed the State Department for persuading the OSCE not to send the monitors in order to delegitimize the vote, saying at a political meeting Monday that relations with Washington would be affected. He also warned that Russia was building up its military so that “no one puts his runny nose into our affairs.”

And he’s ripping off a page from Hugo Chavez.

On Sunday, the official state Rossiya television station broadcast a documentary describing Russia’s liberals as U.S. stooges. The documentary claimed Washington wanted a popular uprising in Russia similar to those that helped pro-Western leaders take office in Ukraine and Georgia.

We may be seeing the emergence of the Russian version of China’s Communist-capitalist one party style authoritarian government. The way the Russian system is set up, United Russia will dominate the next parliament and might be in a position to change the constitution to allow Putin to retain some or all of his power. That will be something to watch for. Chavez is attempting something similar right now, though the polls are starting to shift against him. Putin may learn from that experience and improve on Chavez’s move. Between now and Sunday the crackdown is likely to continue as Putin uses the power of the state to stifle and smear his opposition.

You can take the man out of the KGB, but you can’t take the KGB out of the man.