The regional elections that are taking place in 14 Russia’s regions today can arguably be called a kick-off of the 2007-2008 election cycle that will culminate in the next year’s presidential election on March 2. The level of interest the Western media is paying to the events is therefore quite understandable. Unfortunately, the quality of reporting has not raised up to the occasion.
When disinformation comes from professional Les Russophobes, this is hardly surprising. However, when ignorance and ideological bias are displayed by serious financial publications, this is troubling.
Take, for instance, the article by Bloomberg’s Henry Meyer. Mr. Meyer writes:
Putin, 54, who is barred by a two-term constitutional limit from running for re-election, said last month that he would name his preferred political heir during the election campaign.
Well, no. Mr. Putin didn’t say that. Here is what he said during his last month news-conference:
I have said many times now that there will be no successors. There will be candidates for the post of president of the Russian Federation. It is the state authorities’ job to ensure that they [candidates] have the democratic means to pursue their election campaigns and set out their campaign platforms so that voters can then make an informed choice.
It is Mr. Meyer’s privilage, of course, not to trust President Putin’s words. It is, however, his obligation as a journalist to at least quote Putin correctly.
Mr. Meyer then proceeds with describing the pre-election situation in St. Petersburg:
The two pro-Putin parties are far and away the most visible in the St. Petersburg legislative campaign: Posters for United Russia and Fair Russia can be seen across the city. Their opponents can’t afford to pay for advertising; they’ve had little access to business donations…
According to Chairman of the Central Election Commission, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the Union of Right Forces (Mr. Meyer calls it "pro-business") received about $8 million in campaign donations. True, this is less than $22 million and $16 million, respectively, collected by its larger opponents. But the Union of Right Forces only competes in nine regions, whereas United Russia and Just Russia in all fourteen. Mr. Meyer can use simple math to calculate that the amount of money per campaign is pretty much the same for all three parties.
If Mr. Meyer’s math problems seem to be subtle, his colleague from the Financial Times, Neil Buckley, simply cannot count up to five. In his March 8 piece, Mr. Buckley informs his readers that the Yabloko party has been barred from elections in three regions. In fact, it’s been barred in five, and in five more, it has chosen not to run.
But numbers is not what Mr. Buckley has interest in. His major objective is to prove that Yabloko was barred from elections based on "technicalities."
It is ironic that the Western media criticize Russia for the lack of rule of law, but then blame the officials for upholding the electoral law, when the results are not to the liking of the West.
"Technicalities"? "Technicalities" is what separates law from mob justice.