Why do the rulers in Kremlin have to come down so hard on every last hint of an opposition? Why did they have to exclude all serious rivals from the presidential race, stuff the ballot boxes, exclude observers? Were they unsure of their victory? It was clear that they would have won the last election and that their party will win the next election to the Duma anyway. After all, they control most of the media, and there is not much political discontent.
Maybe the question is wrongly put. Putin and Medvedev were not worried about losing the election. They wanted to send a signal. If they win elections simply because they are popular, that means that they could lose an election if they were to become impopular. Their power would be at the mercy of the electorate. This cannot be tolerated.
So the electorate has to understand: it is not a question of choosing between Medvedev-Putin and some alternative. It’s a question of choosing between choosing Medvedev-Putin and getting Medvedev-Putin without having chosen them.