The results of Russia’s December 4 parliamentary election, putting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party slightly in the lead, sparked much controversy and protest.
Technically winning only 49% of votes – down from 64% four years ago, the United Russia Party was nonetheless given 53% of the vote after redistribution from the three election parties did not satisfy the 5% threshold.
Immediately following the election, opposition parties and observers cried foul, with accusations of vote-rigging, and international monitors indicated ballot stuffing. At the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting on December 6, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also raised concern about the elections, saying: “Independent political parties, such as PARNAS, were denied the right to register. And the preliminary report by the OSCE cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists and other troubling practices.”
Russian authorities allowed a massive protest against alleged election fraud last Saturday as a way of preventing a repeat of the brutally violent police intervention on unauthorized demonstrations immediately following the elections. Despite near-freezing weather, some 25,000 people gathered in the center of Moscow, with tens of thousands of other protestors demonstrating across Russia; these sanctioned protests were largely violence-free, according to Russian police.
Organizers of protest are already planning future events.
Putin’s Need for Reinvention
For over a decade, Putin has been Russia’s top politician, having served as president from 2000 to 2008 and prime minister from 2008 to present. Due to constitutional term limits he could not continue on as president for a third consecutive term but instead endorsed his prot?g?, Dmitry Medvedev for the role.
Putin’s decision to switch roles with Medvedev and try to become president for a third term angered many Russians, frustrated with the political and economic stagnation, corruption and authoritarian leadership they felt would continue under his rule.
Despite a November poll predicting Putin would garner 31% of the vote in March, as well as Putin’s strong presidential track record of boosting Russia’s economy and centralizing power, he will have to reinvent himself to stay politically relevant.
As part of this plan to stave off opponents including Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who announced his presidential candidacy on Monday December 12, Putin will need new ideas, proposals and alliances. In one first step toward salvaging his tarnished public image, Putin, according to the Russian government, recently intervened to prevent the 67-year-old Bagoslosk aluminum smelter and refinery in danger of closing due to rising energy costs.
This move, reminiscent of Putin’s popular 2009 intervention to restart production at the RUSAL plant – an aluminum refinery in northwestern Russia – prevented the layoff of 3,500 workers.
Key Statistics – Metals & Mining in Russia(source: MarketLine)
- In 2010, total revenues for the Russian metals and mining industry reached approximately $128 billion, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 4% from 2006 to 2010.
- Between 2006 and 2010, industry production volumes rose to nearly 458 million metric tons with a CAGR of almost 2.5%.
- The industry is expected to reach a value of around $280 billion by the end of 2015, with a projected CAGR of nearly 17% from 2010 to 2015.