President Vladimir V. Putin today accused the United States of trying to taint the legitimacy of upcoming Russian parliamentary elections by pressing a group of prominent independent election observers to abandon their attempts to monitor the campaign.
Mr. Putin contended that the monitors, who are deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had canceled plans to appraise the parliamentary balloting at the urging of the State Department in Washington.
Well, I'm in no position to comment. I'm indirectly involved in this election and I'm privy to what many Russians say. On the other hand, I'm known to be connected with one side in the matter so not everyone comes out and says what they think.
One of the strongest detractors I know admits that the majority do actually support Putin and are therefore hoodwinked and she doesn't assert coercion. If only those obervers would remain, they could see for themselves.
I'm intending to go to one of the polling stations and last time I went, I can say this categorically - I watched many going into the room in the school [as in the west] where the booths were with curtains [as in the west].
I saw a ballot paper and it listed just the names of the candidates, although there was a big poster in the foyer with all candidates and which party they were from. It may be that this time the parties are listed but it scarcely matters - people know anyway.
Clearly no one was expecting trouble as it's pretty well a foregone conclusion - most pundits say Yedinaya Rossiya will pick up around 75% of the vote.
Even if assertions were correct and undue pressure was brought to bear, it still doesn't alter the fact that the ballot paper is marked in a curtained booth and then goes straight to the one box with all the others.
Of far greater concern to me is the plan to cut out our trams - I need my tram home and do not wish to go by car nor by bus. However, I'm fighting a losing battle because it seems to have been settled.
The only ray of hope is that my mate said they've been saying this for the last ten years so hopefully they'll threaten it for another ten years too.