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tv   Inside Story 2018 Ep 77  Al Jazeera  March 19, 2018 2:32pm-3:01pm +03

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killed at least seven civilians and four rebels from the free syrian army the explosion happened after turkish forces backed by syrian rebels took control of the city on sunday turkey launched its offensive enough field in january to drive out kurdish y p g fighters who it says are terrorists. two people have been injured in an explosion in the u.s. state of texas it's believed a package detonated when it was opened in a residential neighborhood in austin police are investigating whether it's connected to three package bombings earlier this month that killed two people and whether race may have been the motive thousands of protesters are valid again in brazil to denounce the killing of a politician who was an outspoken critic of police violence demonstrators gathered at the slum in rio de janeiro where city councilor mariella franco grew up she was shot dead along with her driver on wednesday in what investigators are treating as a targeted assassination franco was a popular advocate for the city's poorest citizens those were the headlines we'll
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have more news in thirty minutes next on al-jazeera it's inside story do stay with us. saddam at present is dominated russian politics for a teeny is now he's certain to be elected president for another six at a time when relations with the us a compared to the cold war and moscow is accused of poisoning a spy and britain what do russian voters expect from them this is inside story.
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out of our welcome to the program i'm laura cottle one hundred and ten million voters a choosing a president for russia a spotlight is on one man vladimir putin has led the country for almost two decades either as president or prime minister many voters credit putin a sixty five year old former k.g.b. spy with standing up for russia's interests but others say there's no alternative and as gen a whole reports a high turnout will boost the legitimacy of putin's expected victory you know there's a presidential election going on because of the banners in the street that say presidential election and schools are full of adults on a sunday voters are presented with a seemingly vibrant a row of choices eight candidates veteran politicians there's a communist an ultra nationalist and a former reality t.v.
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star who some fancy is a future leader but not this time. this time the result is not in doubt. this man says he's voting for the father of the nation. which i trust putin and i like the way he. they are a of choice is not all it seems a series of televised election debates over the past fortnight featuring seven of the eight candidates minus putin of course quickly descended into a circus like fast in fact circus is a word the kremlin has used to describe the other seven election candidates so it's more a show of democracy than the real thing. conspicuously absent from the ballot is this man alexina valmy and to corruption lawyer turned opposition figure who's led enormous street protests in the past he's putin's most outspoken critic
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barred from taking part after a conviction for embezzlement a charge he says was politically motivated novelli has called on his supporters to boycott the election as the voting day wore on low turnout what the kremlin really cares about seem to be high so to the number of alleged voter violations reported on social media big numbers will add legitimacy to the putin victory and it does appear that big numbers have turned out to vote. for inside story in moscow people of crimea of voting for the first time since russia annexed the region in two thousand and fourteen. reports from. ok so i'm going to show you something now which i think is going to put the importance of crimea in this election in a bit of context this is a little metal that all the voters who are turning up here at this voting station in sevastopol are being given at the top it says sevastopol the name of the city and underneath it has the date of the referendum in two thousand and fourteen in
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which crimea was reabsorbed into russia now that that referendum was always viewed by the international community by many countries as essentially the thinnest of democratic veneers for what was essentially an illegal annexation but here of course it's seeing as a legitimate view of popular will essentially and then on the back of the metal we get with russia for ever now although the presidential election here has never been after surely linked with the referendum that's what is in effect happening so for me approved. the annexation of crimea is one of the central achievements of his last term in office he spent the last few days before campaigning finish in crimea in sevastopol flanking prime ins for their choice and then this evening after all the voting is finished on red square in moscow there's going to be a big event called russia semi stop all crimea so you can see really how important
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crimea is in this election campaign it's never been officially admitted but that certainly is the case chalons al-jazeera for inside story sevastopol crimea. ok let's bring in our guest now in moscow pavel felgenhauer congressman the voyage . in new york and a fellow at the washington institute for near east policy and in london via skype james nixey head of the russia and eurasia program at the foreign affairs think tank chatham house great to have you all with us thanks for being here on inside stories. so pavel let's just start with you because the key question here that least the one that putin wants to know is is it looking like a large enough turnout to legitimize this phase or parent well yes oh and occasions are that this rather reversed and the u.s.
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president's words in reports and would be reelected than is being reworked it rise as we speak and there was never a doubt that he would be reelected and apparently he'll get a good turnout and a good man mandate for another six years he wanted this seventy seventy seventy percent turnout and seventy percent of that vote was that a bit too ambitious or do you think he's actually going to get that well we'll get to see the exact figures as they're announced of course and maybe in moscow it will be less and then big cities somewhere in the caucasus and other places that could be over one hundred percent and over one hundred percent voting for putin why not say eric unchurched yeah so no nor he'll get you know he'll get a rebuffed mandate there's no doubt about that ok so no doubt about a robust mandate but out of there was a huge campaign wasn't there to get people to the polls why this person concerned
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that not many would turn out to vote well you know one reason is if you look back at the two thousand and sixteen duma that is parliamentary election the vote was at a historic was at a historic low it was just under fifty percent and so there the kremlin certainly appears to be greatly concerned and so there was this push indeed as paul said to have a greater turnout this time but the concern you know clearly the kremlin has been concerned that there would be a low turnout and the opposition leader. is barred from from sending in this presidential election he's been a boycott did he get that boycott. well it's a it's a little bit unclear now whether or not he did certainly there will be a number of people who will be boycotting indeed in moscow there will be a much lower turnout what's been interesting to watch is how in moscow if if the people wanted the authorities to remove the snow this year they would just write the name of allah me on the snow piles and the authority authorities would just
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remove the snow so that tells you a lot about what's happening certainly not a reelection and of course putin is guaranteed a victory because it's not a real election james as anna said not of election but russia desperately wants it to have a piece of the net of democracy why does it care so much and is anyone buying it absolutely i couldn't agree with your last guest focus actually more this is a sham election by the way we understand it it's a recurring nation or affirmation it will be rooted in that will listen a quarter of a century of our ask will. they have this been here democracy well russia is not a an out and out totalitarian autocracy it's not so sure what north korea there is some freedom within but it is kept in a fully under control but the opposition people you mentioned people like novelli will succeed you saw check they are all to various extents kremlin projects this is
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a slightly forces to show that there is systemic and non-systemic opposition because the crimean allows it so there is a game being played out to unwritten rules and. russia does still desire respect and you can't get total respect if you are out to now talk you see this all played there are democracy. how appalled when one has to ask the question how putin manages to remain so popular when you look at russia the economy as flanking is in a greater state of isolation that has been for many many years and yet people genuinely to still support him. why there's no real alternative for our kind in the russian mass psyche if you're for putin your for russia if you're against putin you're against russia he's a kind of like a monarch in that medieval empire he's a personalize ation of the russian state and that puts him in
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a very very special position and other people just go there to kind of show their loyalty in general general loyalty to the russian state i mean actually even in soviet times in times of to to a terran rule there were always also very very important that there be a turnout in the scene in eighty three i had gotten to a problem because they didn't want to go to vote and the director of my academic institute phoned me at home and between that vote or who said they're going to close down our institute or something like that because i was voting at a special very privileged voting station where people from the poor borough are also officially voting so i mean though it was always in of course it didn't matter one vote didn't matter i mean they always got ninety nine percent but even then they were very much to very important to have
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a total turnout and that means that the people by voting that they actually showed their salad darty with the rulers of russia so that's a very important point ok and i know why is there no viable alternative in today's russia what happened to the opposition movement to spark some twenty to twenty twelve. sure well you know what happened is putin doesn't put in doesn't allow any real opposition because russia is not a real democracy it's a sham and as we talked about earlier the appearance of legitimacy is very important and certainly and that's why they're pushing for the trying so hard to have such a high turnout because it's so important to appear legitimate and indeed in the soviet times as paul said that was also the case and in fact you know when we look at what's happening now and how the authorities are trying to get the people to vote there are lots of echoes of the soviet past in terms of how they would give incentives to people they're just adapted to modern times but it's still the same
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strategy and so to get back to your question. the most prominent leader the heart of russia's opposition boris nemtsov was murdered shamelessly in front of the kremlin. several years ago and so the whole political system is so controlled at the same time there's an appearance of opposition appears of technology and. the appearance of democracy but but that's not what's happening and the volley could have you know the volley could have posed a challenge to putin and that's why he's barred from running do you think we might see a resurgence of novotny down the road. it's it may be possible look you know what's interesting is the soviet union in the soviet times the communist party have a think something around ninety nine percent approval rating is officially in then the whole thing just collapsed in several days in a very few people expected it to happen the protest of two thousand and eleven two thousand and twelve also i think very few expected such massive massive uprisings
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you know maybe several thousand people but not the massive turnout not the largest protests since the fall of the soviet union so the thing about russia is you know sometimes things really surprise us and these approval ratings they just don't mean a whole lot for instance you know the seventy eighty the eighty ninety percent approval ratings of putin that we see. again this these are largely engineered and frankly if he felt so secure that the majority truly supported him why would he need constant reassurance again as we look at the u.s. and russia thousands as i was sort of alluding to the thousands of young people joining those anti corruption protests that we saw led find a volley last year in march last year but then there wasn't really any follow up there's a groundswell is there for a revolution amongst even the young people in russia. yeah that's correct it's
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a mixed picture of the younger generation russia. beringia corruption that's for certain they're not necessarily anti putin or anti antiquities foreign policies you know we're a court in a way so what we hope for generational change and i think we should generational change because it will inevitably bring something we weren't necessarily bring some kind of nice cozy comfy russian liberal democracy. it it's more like he's a very soft changes around the edges so we don't see this is somewhat exceptional we do see a hard line conservative nationalist in power we do see if it's going to be election results point i mean you know then that kind of happy of seventy percent if you're an ass now to see if you have ninety nine point nine nine percent in western liberal democracy is you're kind of happy with what you put a five percent so we're always going to see that kind of thing from russia it's not it's going to be a while before it becomes what you and i might regard
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a normal west western european style state if you know as we view ok if we look at just the next six years that will bring it back a little bit have a what doesn't i'm bold and puts and name for russia. well what may she quit being is continuation of the same of course there's talk that there will be reforms there will be some reforms. but how can really radical will they be will they really make the difference because everyone understands that russia right now is in a very serious situation the economy is stagnant the household incomes are decreasing for four years in a row there is potential for social unrest and in the russian ruling elite this very small group of people. west and a thousand families who rule actually russia they're also deeply split into this
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there's the so-called and putin's government and ministration a split there's a so-called party of war so-called party of peace who see the future of russia very different terms and putin is the kind of the arbiter supreme he unites them. without putin if you take putin out of the picture and well he's just a mortal man then suddenly you're going to have have very destabilized russian ruling class fight infighting openly inside itself as right now it's infighting but it's kind of they all go to putin and he they have dress him and they put different ideas and he's trying to find a middle ground saying will decrease defense spending at the same time a continued the friend spending we're going to kickstart the economy it's trying to make reforms in all directions and the result is not very effective the people
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still hope that put in will pull off the trick as it was in the year from the year two thousand to two thousand they're around and that there's going to be robust growth that he can do it puts him a believes that sue on a flan could rip. can pull off the trick and the kick start the economy but if it doesn't we're going to be in the very strange situation where on the face of it it's a very stable regime where for public support but it's split inside russia economy not growing the problems are going to pile up yeah on a pittance pledged to raise wages fix health care education infrastructure i mean the list goes on and what happens if he can't deliver. that's it that's exactly right. you know the russian economy is deteriorating he is promising all these things but he's but he's not explaining how exactly he's going to do it and where
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where exactly is the money going to come from for example recently the government announced something around a thirty five billion dollar reform package but again where's this money going to come from the fact of the matter is the russian economy is on the slow deterioration past putin to remember when he came to power he promised to bring stability and growth and for some time he did preside over these changes and the people truly felt that this was this was this was a really big deal in fact for the first time russia saw an emergence of what we could call a middle class that it never had before but the question is exactly what's going to happen when russia's living standards are dropping so low that you are is already where we're going to be in a similar situation to what we had towards the end of the fall of the soviet union where the system was pretty much bankrupt now i do see some differences between now and the soviet union it's not identical for a number of reasons but again it may appear stable but there's lots of tension
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underneath and what i see happening is putin talking about the increasing wartime what mobilization this wartime rhetoric increase defense spending and the spending on defense it is quite real because he's mobilizing the public to put them in the sort of a wartime state because when you're is when you're focused on security. issues of economy are always secondary so it's sort of like distracting the public from their problems by talking about enemies russia being surrounded by enemies and now is not the time to think about the more mundane issues now is the time to think about sacrifice and again the question is you know on the one hand this can go on for a long time but on. the other how long can this really last and what will it look like when it james what you think about the many people do say that they will focus on foreign policy is see many aggressive moves on the global stage in recent times
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and that does bring popular support but at the at the expense of the economy. yeah i broadly agree with your your about your two speakers whereby economy is actually stagnation it's not i have to say in my view that huge of a cliff you can bumble on war less ok look we can continue spending over ten percent of its g.d.p. very year on defense in a slightly desperate sysop attempt a failing attempt type to so just to keep up but yet the purpose of your question is is based on the idea that you can sort of cares about the prosperity of his is subject to czarist subjects if you like another because that is a false premise what with who cares about is so coin or to paraphrase them trump is to make russia great again by his stamp he has done precisely that russia under bodies yeltsin was indeed
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a much diminished figure of fun. and putin has again at least by his standards he has made russia respected at least they noticed russia has to be consulted shall we say or he demands that it is the demands of the it is it is frankly obeyed as well by international community and that's what he wants he wants a change to the established post cold order and whether or not and gets out is a matter of political will in the west because clearly russia is not symmetrical equal power to the combined forces of western europe and united states but it doesn't show syria is a good example of this where the west does have to take note of what russia is doing and adapt in the conflict to a certain extent because not prepared it seems the latest events in my country notwithstanding. i don't take russia on fully as it much too yeah i am part of the input instead himself people are listening now and had he been listening now to
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russia he's catapulted russia on to the world stage do you agree with james that he's done that at the expense of the welfare of the same people but it's pretty damning what dan said that he doesn't care about russian people. whoa no that's not true i threw a greenie that the russian economy and financial system are not on the verge of collapse at all rather they have a very russia has a very sound economic basis we produce oil gas met those fertilizers i mean commodities you can always they always have a price you can always sell them. that means the economy will continue to work it's not growing and that's a problem and putin is recognizing that there's a problem and he is right now being in this election nearing cycle talking about that yes it's going to grow saying all the times that he was going to grow your
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sour ease your incomes will increase and that is politically important this is not north korea this is not authoritarian state. if the if the people become really restless that this will be a serious political problem and boots and knows that and and his ruling class knows that so it's not that he doesn't care he cares a lot but he was believes that he should find a balance with the west show the west that russia is strong and cannot be undermined but then find a quid pro quo ok make sanctions to be decreased and get the economy to grow again right and i would just go to a minute left just want to know after putin ends in six he is what happens then it's a great question i don't think i don't have a great answer for you i don't think anybody knows but one possibility that i see is i certainly don't see prudent wanting to leave power one possibility is that he
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could simply amend the russian constitution the united russia party now has a super majority in the parliament so he could amend the constitution to stay for life that's one that's one possibility certainly he shows no interest in leaving. ok many thanks to all our guests we will have to leave it there but thanks very much for taking time to join us here on inside story. and james nixey and thank you for watching you can see the program again any time by visiting our website dot com and of our discussion do go to our facebook page that's facebook dot com for slash inside story you can also join the conversation on twitter at a.j. inside story from me laura kyle and the whole team here it's by. the
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