A meticulously crafted image - he’s seen fighting the Siberian tiger; he poses to the photographers swimming butterfly; he bares his abs for photographers much in the same way film stars and models do; he happily makes Anna Chapmen the spy one of his party members and a whole news making machinery is put into relaying it; a former Playboy Playmate fights election on his party ticket and becomes MP.
A macho image (aimed at appealing to every section of Russian society) of KGB operative turned politician who took over Russia with promise of political and economic reforms; an image that is under threat now thanks to the efforts of some bloggers led by Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s most popular political blogger.
“I’d like to thank Aleksei Navalny,” she said. “Thanks to him, specifically because of the efforts of this concrete person, tomorrow thousands of people will come out to the square. It was he who united us with the idea: all against ‘the Party of Swindlers and Thieves’.”
A New York Times report quoted a young environment activist appealing to gather for protests on Saturday, December 10. Thousands came together in different parts of Russia on December 10 alleging wide-scale vote rigging in December 4 parliamentary elections. Aleksei Navalany, a 34 year old blogger who has given the slogan ‘the Party of Swindlers and Thieves’ for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, is being touted as the potential threat for Putin’s iron grip on Russia.
Since his coming to the political prominence in 1999, Putin has tightly controlled the mainstream media and has manipulated it the way he found it benefitting to him. Thanks to the oil-economy, Russia saw good days 2000-2008. Oil pumped in money and economy did well. Putin kept on his grip tightening but nothing much was done on the ground to bring about fundamental reforms in Russia’s economy in terms of Industrial and manufacturing policy. Things started going bad when the global recession started spreading in 2008. Gradually things worsened. Corruption became endemic. Dreams of living in a developed Russia once again started getting threadbare. Anti-incumbency was bound to grow and it grew. But Putin was not ready to leave; he’s not ready to leave; not ready to weaken his grip even slightly. He was President for two terms. He could not continue for the third term as restricted by the Russian Constitution. But he remained the central political figure of Russia by being elected as the Prime Minister and now intends to come back as the President next year again when the elections are due. His intention and efforts to continue and a growing protests, though not significant yet as his party is still the most popular in Russia based on the election outcomes and that his approval rating is still above 60 per cent according to the independent Levada Centre, foretell us of chaotic days ahead in Russia.
After the elections and reports on rigging, Navalny called on his fellow countrymen via his Twitter handle (1,37,750 followers then) and his blogs (Navalny.ru and Rospil.info - 61,184 fans then) to come together for protests on Monday, December 5. The New York Times writes, “The full measure of Mr. Navalny’s charisma became clear after protests on Monday night; an estimated 5,000 people materialized, making it the largest anti-Kremlin demonstration in recent memory, and Mr. Navalny was arrested on charges of resisting the police and sentenced to 15 days in prison.”
Today, thousands again came on the streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow to protest against the vote-rigging demanding recounting and sloganeering for a Putin-free Russia. Thousands of supporters of the Communist Party rallied outside the Kremlin weathering wind, rain and blizzard. Central square of St. Petersburg saw thousands coming together chanting ‘Russia without Putin’ and ‘We want to live in an honest country!’ The Associated Press writes, “Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over a decade.”
Vladimir Putin would blame the social media for the anti-Putin wave! How?