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German Press Review: All Power to the New Czar?

German papers on Tuesday all commented on the victory of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

A glorious victory for President Putin, but a black day for Russian democracy, was the verdict from the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

In similar vein, the Hamburger Abendblatt declared that Putin is the true victor of the parliamentary elections, even though he wasn’t a candidate. All power to the new Czar, the paper cried. It commented that these elections were hardly a good example of democracy, but that after ten years of chaos, Russians don’t think much of democracy anyway.

So is Russia a democracy? The Mitteldeutsche Zeitung in Halle referred to a Moscow opinion poll, according to which 51 percent of Russians answered no. The parliamentary elections have proved them right, the paper remarked.

The Rheinpfalz in Ludwigshafen had more statistics: 70 percent of Russians said they didn’t have the slightest interest in the results of the elections to the Duma, Russia’s parliament; 40 percent didn’t vote, and of those who did, nearly one in ten voted “against everybody.” That, the paper commented, is what you call frustration – and understandably so, given the spurious division of power in Russia, the paper said.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung criticized the support of Western leaders for the Russian president. Putin has always had it easy in the West, the daily said, because the West is increasingly dependent on Russian oil and gas supplies. So

everyone closes their eyes and praises Putin as a great statesman and democrat. Let’s substitute honesty for hypocrisy, suggested the paper. Russia is not a

western country, it stated. And Putin is not a democrat. And we have no means whatsoever of forcing Russia to become a democracy.

The Mannheimer Morgen agreed that Putin has no need to fear for his reputation as a statesman. Europeans and Americans use different standards for him, it commented. Berlin, Paris and Washington value the fact that Putin guarantees stability. This, the paper said, is certainly important, and that’s why they won’t hear much said against him – except when money is involved.

The General-Anzeiger in Bonn was one of the few German papers that put in a good word for Putin. His energetic style of government and his promise to lead his country back to greatness, respect and influence are clearly exactly what the majority expect of him, it wrote. The paper rebuked the West, saying it’s being inconsistent when it defends the losers of the election – the communists and the oligarchs – as the victims of a new totalitarianism. Many people trust Putin, it said. Many, however, also doubt that he can resist the temptations of power.

The Frankfurter Rundschau commented that although the future looks gloomy for Russia, this isn’t a new dictatorship. Russia is far too diverse for that, the paper said, and the ruling class isn’t sufficiently united -- so there is still hope.