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The Daily Vertical: Election? What Election? (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Sometimes it's what isn't discussed that is revealing.

Over the past two weeks, I participated in no less than three public events related to Russian politics and foreign affairs -- two in Estonia and one in Poland.

There was a lot of lively and heated debate and discussion about things like Moscow's military and geopolitical strategy, about machinations within the Kremlin power elite, and, of course, about the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

But here's the thing.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

The one thing that was hardly discussed at all was that ritual scheduled for March 18. You know, the staged spectacle that the Kremlin and its surrogates continue to insist on calling an election.

It was considered unimportant. It was a nonevent and a nontopic.

It was, you know, almost as if there wasn't going to be an election in the largest country in the world in less than two weeks' time.

Which, I think, is pretty appropriate. Because, well, there isn't.

Leonid Brezhnev, after all, was "elected" secretary-general of the Soviet Communist Party -- the functional equivalent of today's Russian president -- four times in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

But when Kremlin watchers examined the party congresses and Central Committee and Politburo meetings of those days, they knew they weren't examining elections.

Instead, they were examining the liturgy and rites of a decaying ritual. They were looking for signs and signals of where a moribund regime ruled by an ossifying elite were headed.

Which is exactly how we should be approaching March 18.

But we shouldn't call it an election.

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