WASHINGTON -- "The Russian presidential election is a sad farce and another manipulative operation undertaken by the siloviki regime of secret police officers to hold on to power," says Andrei Illarionov, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former economic adviser to President Putin.
"In reality, the Kremlin has allowed no opposition and there has been no real competition. Dmitry Medvedev was anointed by Vladimir Putin and real opponents were kept out of the race, leaving just Communist Gennady Zuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov to stand. None of those three have undertaken any serious efforts to be elected - they were there just for form's sake.
"All the genuine opponents to the regime -- Vladimir Bukovsky, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Mikhail Kasyanov -- were either not registered or forced not to participate in the election. No serious programs have been offered to the electorate by the candidates and there have been no debates.
"To be fair, there was one program offered. It was Putin's program consisting of several economic targets for the next 12 years, indicating the duration he is probably going to stay in power. Putin has decided to become the Prime Minister and there are clear signs that he will attach to that position the levers of real authority. So it is unlikely that there will be a transition of power from Medvedev to Putin.
"Not content with making sure there were no genuine presidential contenders allowed to run, the Kremlin has been doing its best to intimidate voters and ensure a high vote for Putin's man. The Kremlin has made sure that there are insufficient numbers of international observers on the ground able to observe the balloting. In fact, there are fewer for this election than the ridiculously small numbers permitted to observe the sham parliamentary elections in December.
"In preparation for Sunday, the Kremlin has hounded, detained, and harassed hundreds of opposition activists and critics. Tens of thousands of troops are being deployed in the streets and squares of Moscow and in other Russian cities. And as the Russian people once again are being robbed of their democratic rights, unconscionable support for Putin has come from overseas -- from President George W. Bush, who this week at a press conference said: 'It's important to establish personal relations with leaders... We still have got a cordial enough relationship' with Moscow."
Illarionov is available to comment further on this topic. If you would like to arrange an interview, please contact Cato's media relations department at 202-789-5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.