FROM Dimitri K. Simes
Russian Democracy and Putin's Power Politics He's seen in the West as a throwback to the days of the Soviet Union: centralized power, control of the media, stifling of political opposition. But since Vladimir Putin was elected President , the economy has been booming and his combative behavior has persuaded Russians they're back as a world power. Putin has turned this weekend's parliamentary elections into a referendum on his two terms as President. Opposition rallies have been broken up, and leaders have been jailed. Former chess champion Gary Kasparov was sentenced to five days for protesting the conduct of the election. With the Kremlin determined to boost the turnout, many Russians say they're being pressured to vote at work, with the implicit threat of losing their jobs if they don't support Putin's party, United Russia . Will this weekend's parliamentary elections consolidate Putin's power, even as the Constitution requires him to step down? Will US and Russian relations continue to deteriorate, while both countries undergo political transitions?
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