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was the headline in Izvestia that heralded the new era in Russian Politics as Vladimir Putin was elected as Russia's new President gaining 52% of the vote.  The headline itself is a reference to a recent and popular Russian film of the same title.  

Much has been made in the west of Putin's employment in the KGB and its successor the FSB and it has been suggested that his election to President could signal the beginning of a new era of repression Russia.  His reforming credentials are questioned and some believe that his true mentor is Joseph Stalin.  However, in Russia, Putin does seem to reflect the instincts and embody the hopes of millions of ordinary Russians.  Putin is attractive to those who want a break from the Yelstin era of stalled reforms, economic dislocation and lawlessness, but do not wish to see a return to Communism.  

Putin has rekindled the hopes that were dissipated during the failed reform era of the 1990s although he has so far issued no economic programme.  He has stressed that Russia's democratic institutions and market economy must be viewed as work in progress and has vowed to continue the reforms.

He has called for a dictatorship of law, a fight against corruption and has indicated support for the free market and foreign investors.  He has also endorsed protectionism and state intervention.

Russia's nascent democracy is still fragile and lacks a credible opposition parties.  The choice for the electorate seems to be between economic systems, capitalism or communism, rather than between political parties/manifestos.  The electrion has highlighted the flaws of Russian democracy, as acting president Vladimir Putin was able to deploy vast administrative resources in his campaign and made good use of access to state-owned television stations.  The public's favourable attitude to the war in Chechnya and the improving performance of the economy also strengthened his position.

Whilst Vladimir Putin has benefited from his position as incumbent he recognises the need to strengthen Russia's democratic institutions:

"Until we have dependable political parties and an effective political system it will be extremely difficult to solve any questions, including those in the economic sphere".

April 2000


Russians fear that their country is turning its back on the democratic freedoms won after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but continue to support President Vladimir Putin, a poll showed 40 percent believe that Russia is not a democratic country and a third are concerned about a slide towards authoritarianism.

Putin, 48, a former KGB colonel who was elected as president in March, continues to enjoy high poll ratings according to the survey, which quizzed 2,000 people nationwide in September. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they approved of Putin's policies, with 14.4 percent dissatisfied. But the survey also showed 37.4 percent of respondents believed that Russia was not a democratic country, against 27.8 percent who did and 34.8 percent who expressed no opinion. Elections in Russia are not free and fair, according to 52.6 percent of the respondents. At the same time, 33.6 percent of those interviewed said that Russia, which had been moving towards democracy after more than 70 years of totalitarian
Communism, is sinking once again into authoritarianism.

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