Young Russians “talking about politics”

Though Maryam Narzikulova predicted that the candidate she voted for wouldn’t win, the 25-year-old student from the University of Westminster, travelled to the polling station at the Russian Trade Office in London to cast her ballot.

“Despite I voted for this candidate [Mikhail Prokhorov], I was sure [Vladimir] Putin would win,” the fashion business management student says. “I wasn’t thinking he will change anything but still it was my chance to express my political rights to vote. I don’t want Putin to hold power anymore.”

But Vladimir Putin is back in power as the Russian president, continuing his political leadership. Putin, who serves as the country’s current prime minister and is the president-elect, headed Russia from 2000-2008 as the president.

A teary-eyed Putin addressed his supporters after the win saying he has “won in an open and fair struggle”.

However, Putin’s United Russia party has been accused of corruption and fraud in the election.

While a significant number of loyal Putin supporters cheered over his victory, thousands jeered against what many call “an autocratic” regime.

According to news reports, more than 20,000 people marched in Moscow’s Pushkin Square in protest.

Away from her hometown, Narzikulova says she is keeping track of the latest developments via social networking channels and news outlets.

Expressing her dismay over the protestors’ arrest in Moscow and also Putin’s fourth time in office, she says: “It makes me feel I live in a totalitarian country and not a democratic country.”

Professor Roland Dannreuther, head of politics and international relations at the University of Westminster, however, views Russia as “semi-democratic rather than fully authoritarian”.

Dannreuther, whose research interests include the international relations of Russia, says though the Russian regime is not oppressive like its neighbouring Belarus, “it’s far from open democracy”.

Since Putin held power in 2000, succeeding the Russian Federation’s first president Boris Yeltsin, over the years there have been changes in his power and popularity.

Talking about the shift, Dannreuther says there is an internal dissent in the country’s social and political sphere.

“There is a sizable group of middle class and intellectual population disenchanted with limits of political freedom and debate,” he says. “Russians are concerned about corruption and want to see a modernised and legitimate state.”

Along with the news of Putin’s victory, the blogosphere and social networking sites surfaced with opinions, views and analysis of what it would mean for Russia.

Dannreuther says it will be “an interesting time ahead in Russian politics” to see what Putin will do.

“If Putin is sensible he would become more plural and competitive, deal with corruption and diversify the economy,” he adds.

But people like Narzikulova, who is not politically active but still interested in their country’s political progress, fears that Putin will not give the chance for new and young leadership.

However, she says she is happy to see young Russians discussing this issue.

“People are talking about politics,” she says. “This wasn’t the case five or six years back. That’s a good thing.”

Published in Westminster News Online

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