The governor of the Russian region of Kemerovo, Aman Tuleyev, has resigned amidst a shopping mall fire that killed dozens. The Winter Cherry shopping center went up in flames last week after alleged safety failings, particularly broken fire alarms and unresponsive security guards. Over 60 people were killed, 41 of them children, using entertainment facilities such as theaters at the top of the building whose doors were supposedly locked. Thousands of protestors took to the streets in the aftermath of the tragedy, blaming the incident on political corruption and governmental incompetence.
In his final video address to the region, Tuleyev, whose niece was one of the victims, referred to stepping aside as “the right, conscious, and only true decision.” President Vladimir Putin previously met with him, blaming the act on “criminal negligence”, but abstained from firing Mr. Tuleyev as the Kremlin is able to do. However under immense pubic pressure, experts speculatethat the Kremlin indirectly forced Mr. Tuleyev out so as to calm community outrage without giving the impression that the office can be swayed by public opinion. Mr. Tuleyev’s has been governor of the Siberian region since 1997.
Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed reelection victory on March 18 in unsurprising results for a noncompetitive election. Official numbers credit him with over 75% of the vote, easily securing the autocrat another six years in office. This recent victory essentially guarantees that Putin with oversee the country for a total of 25 years, making him the only other Russian leader to rule for more than two decades besides dictator Joseph Stalin.
With several unviable opponents, Moscow attempted to increase turnout to indicate the legitimacy of its ‘democracy’ to the outside world. Get-out-the-vote campaigns included selfie competition raffles for iPhones and cars. Hard-to-find food products were placed as incentives for voting at polling places. Bosses threatened termination if employees abstained from voting. And it may have worked: turnout increased from 65% in the 2012 elections to 70% in 2018. At the same time, Golos, an independent election monitoring group, has cited multiple counts of election fraud, including ballot stuffing and blocking security cameras. Nonetheless, the Russian Election Commission has declared the polls valid.
Regardless, the real controversies are not necessarily the conditions of this election, but the upcoming one. …