Vladimir Putin continues to consolidate power…

From TNR:

If any proof were needed that the Russian political system operates in its own time-space continuum, it came this morning, when the parliament decided to deal with the country’s economic meltdown by amending its constitution.

The Duma fixed the 1993 text by decoupling presidential and parliamentary elections and approving term extensions for the president, from four to six years.

The amendment, which President Dmitry Medvedev announced on November 5, was discussed for a scant two weeks and passed overwhelmingly: 392 to 57. (Amazingly, those 57 votes came from the Communists.)

The Moscow Times offers dissent, as well as a prediction of decreased Putin favorability in the near future…

This looks as if Putin is carrying out a constitutional junta. The only difference between his junta and the one in Latin American is that Putin is taking pre-emptive steps now to avoid a military coup later. This way he can maintain a semblance of democracy by packaging the coup in constitutional trappings.

Putin loyalists control the Central Election Commission, the major television stations, the main political parties, the Duma, the Federation Council, the military, police and the secret services. And the president, of course, is also Putin’s man.

The only things in Russia that are not under Putin’s control are the dollar, the price of oil, Islamic extremists in the Caucasus and the financial crisis. These are all crucial factors that will determine the country’s political future. As the economy worsens, Putin will receive less support from the upper level of bureaucracy, which up until now has received a generous windfall from high oil prices. As this source of income dries up, so will the elite’s unconditional support for Putin. The elite may continue to support Putin on the surface, but at the same time they will be calculating their personal financial losses as the crisis unfolds. They will also be asking themselves the question, “Perhaps we need a change from the current Chekist leadership?”

Jeezus, let’s hope so.

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