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After Russia's elections, public anger at Putin: Can he fix corruption?

A protest vote against Putin's United Russia party in parliament is being followed by sustained protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Putin is still headed for the presidency, but if he doesn't fix corruption, Russia risks the stagnation of the Brezhnev years.

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There is something delicious in discovering when conventional wisdom gets it wrong, and when the public pokes the proverbial sharp stick in a politician’s eye. 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party lost its two-thirds majority in parliament after elections on Dec. 4, seeing it dwindle to about 50 percent – and this amid reports of widespread election fraud.

The protest vote has been followed by protest demonstrations against manipulated elections for three consecutive nights in Moscow and St. Petersburg. More protests are scheduled for Saturday. These are among the most serious protests in Russia in years, and police have arrested hundreds of demonstrators. Mr. Putin went so far as to criticize US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for encouraging the protests – and accused the US of funding them – in order to weaken another nuclear power. He promised a stronger crackdown.

Yes, Mr. Putin will likely be back as head of state after presidential elections in March. But predictions of a cakewalk for his United Russia party in this month’s parliamentary elections ignored the very substantial reservoir of public dissatisfaction and marked changes in Russia’s political climate after 12 years of Putinism (first as prime minister, then as president, and again as prime minister).

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