Friday, November 30, 2007

Loyalty Pledges

By Cernig

Start with loyalty pledges and televised open debates where only loyalists should be allowed to ask question...end up here.
The Kremlin is planning to rig the results of Russia's parliamentary elections on Sunday by forcing millions of public sector workers across the country to vote, the Guardian has learned.

Local administration officials have called in thousands of staff on their day off in an attempt to engineer a massive and inflated victory for President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party. Voters are being pressured to vote for United Russia or risk losing their jobs, their accommodation or bonuses, the Guardian has been told in numerous interviews with byudzhetniki (public sector workers), students and ordinary citizens.

...Analysts say the pressure is designed to ensure a resounding win for the United Russia party and for Putin, who heads its party list. The victory would give him a public mandate to maintain ultimate power in the country as "National Leader" despite being unable to stand for a third term as president in March.

In a televised speech yesterday Putin implored the nation to turn out and vote for United Russia, saying: "I count on your support." The president enjoys genuine popular backing but a spokeswoman for Golos, an independent organisation monitoring the elections, said "big pressure on voters across the country" was being used to balloon the result for United Russia.

"We are seeing a new phenomenon where voters are forced to get absentee ballots under threat of being sacked or being denied bonuses," she said. "People are then instructed to vote at their workplace where everything is tightly controlled." The spokesman said the pressure applied to private businesses as well as state-run enterprises.

Students have been told they risk the prospect of failing exams or being removed from courses if they do not vote for United Russia.
It isn't a million miles away from what Chavez is up to in Venezuala. Essentially, a rigged deal to make the current holders of power into permanent holders of power - based off current popularity and including various pot-sweeteners and pressures, but still a peaceful power-grab pretending to be democracy. Of course, there are other ways to achieve the same effect:
Today, the Republicans are trying to exploit the discontent with the electoral college among Americans in a way that would rig the system in their favour. At the moment, every state apart from Maine and Nebraska hands out its electoral college votes according to a winner-takes-all system. This means that if 51 per cent of people in California vote Democrat, the Democrats get 100 per cent of California's electoral votes; if 51 per cent of people in Texas vote Republican, the Republicans get 100 per cent of Texas' electoral votes.

The Republicans want to change this – but in only one Democrat-leaning state. California has gone Democratic in presidential elections since 1988, and winning the sunny state is essential if the Democrats are going to retake the White House. So the Republicans have now begun a plan to break up California's electoral college votes – and award a huge chunk of them to their side.

They have launched a campaign called California Counts, and they are trying to secure a state-wide referendum in June to implement their plan. They want California's electoral votes to be divvied up not on a big state-wide basis, but according to the much smaller congressional districts. The practical result? Instead of all the state's 54 electoral college votes going to the Democratic candidate, around 20 would go to the Republicans.

If this was being done in every state, everywhere, it would be an improvement. California's forgotten Republicans would be represented in the electoral college, and so would Texas's forgotten Democrats. But by doing it in California alone, they are simply giving the Republicans a massive electoral gift. Suddenly it would be extremely hard for a Democrat ever to win the White House; they would need a landslide victory everywhere else to counter this vast structural imbalance against them on the West Coast.

You can see this partisan agenda if you look at who is behind the campaign. It was set up by Charles "Chep" Hurth III – a Republican donor to Rudy Giuliani. It was drafted by Tom Hiltachk – a Republican attorney. Its signature drive was co-ordinated by Kevin Eckery – a Republican consultant. Its funds were provided by Paul Singer – a Republican billionaire and one of Rudy Giuliani's biggest donors. Its chief fundraiser is Anne Dunsmore – who went there straight from her post as national deputy campaign manager for Giuliani. Seeing a pattern yet?

Indeed, this bias is so blatant that the state Republican Party itself has now chipped in $80,000 (£39,000) to the campaign. Of course, the campaign is not marketing itself as a Republican rigging escapade. They insist: "This initiative is not about helping any one party or candidate. It simply ensures that every vote cast in our state counts in the electoral college." But the best they can do to provide "balance" is to point to the fact that one of the men who has given them $20,000, Edward Allred, once also gave $2,300 to the campaign of Democratic contender Bill Richardson. Wow.
Welcome to the 21st century's "soft dictatorships", where the power-mad clothe themselves in the trappings of democracy. They aren't your grandpappy's totalitarians.

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