Putin and Beijing, Mubarak is Waving at You!

Putin and Beijing, Mubarak is Waving at You!
By He Qinglian on March 20, 2012

I made a comparison between this two strong men in power of different countries because a strong parallel could easily be drawn between the way Vladimir Putin won the Russian presidential election and the way Hosni Mubarak became elected. 

Vladimir Putin became president-elect amid a wave of oppositions, and his joy was shared by Beijing and the major mouthpieces of China. Apart from the desire to see that a power politics could carry on, Beijing and the Chinese state media saw in Putin's victory a change in the course of the world development that would be much in their favor and they predicted that, “Since the end of the Cold War, Russia still remains on a par with the U.S. in terms of military power. As the world's current situation changes, Putin, the president of Russia, will influence to a certain extent on the global landscape in the next 12 years—whether it is Asia, the Middle East, or the South China Sea regions.”

However, both Putin and Beijing had better not to be happy about the election result so soon—the events of the Russian general election in 2012 reminded me of the landslide victory of Hosni Mubarak, the Middle East strong man back then. There are many similarities between the two, and the opposition Hosni Mubarak faced at that time was much smaller than what Vladimir Putin faces today.

Below are some facts supporting my judgment:

One, in the Egyptian election in 2005 and the Russian election in 2012, Mubarak and Putin had an overwhelming victory respectively.

On the night of September 9, 2005, the Presidential Election Commission officially announced that the ruling National Democratic Party candidate, incumbent president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, won a landslide victory in Eygpt's first-ever multi-candidate presidential election held on September 7 and was elected president for the fifth consecutive time. According to the statistics, Hosni Mubarak won in this election 88.57% of the vote, and secured an overwhelming victory.

And in the Russian election held on March 4, 2012, Vladimir Putin too won with an absolute advantage. On that day, the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation announced that, even though there were several other candidates, Vladimir Putin won the election hands down and became president-elect of the Russian Federation. According to the released statistical results of the vote, presidential candidate, current prime minister Vladimir Putin got 63.6% of the vote; Russian Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov came in second with 17.18% of the vote; the remaining three candidates Mikhail Prokhorov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergey Mironov got 7.98%, 6.22% and 3.85% of the vote respectively.

Two, in both elections, Mubarak and Putin enjoyed a political edge over their opponents

Before 2005, the Egyptian presidential election was a “one-man game” that Mubarak played. First, the Egyptian parliament nominated and approved a sole candidate, and then the whole country voted to elect their president. Under U.S. pressure, Egypt enacted in 2005 the “Egyptian presidential election law”. In accordance with that law, the Presidential Election Commission was to affirm on August 11 ten presidential candidates from the fifty-odd persons nominated by political parties or self-recommended to run in the election. Apart from the ruling National Democratic Party nominated President Hosni Mubarak, there were only two other candidates who considerably had some influence: Numan Gumaa of the long existed New Wafd Party, and Ayman Nour of the Tomorrow Party, which established only in October 2004. All the rest of the candidates did not have public support and prestige.

Mubarak's political opponents mainly concentrated among the young intellectuals in Cairo, whereas the country's medium and small towns and rural areas were under Mubarak and his National Democratic Party's firm control.

Russia's political oppositions existed all along, but their strength was no match of Vladimir Putin. And even the Russian Communist Party had never had a support rate that exceeded 20%, despite its use of the people's nostalgic sentiments. Based on the analysis on the vote, those in favor of Vladimir Putin were mainly from the remote, backward regions, as had been the case for the supporters of Hosni Mubarak. In Moscow however, Putin got only 47.22% of the vote. And even in Vladimir Putin's hometown, the city of St. Petersburg, there were a good few of those who opposed him.

Judging from the cultural qualities and openness of the supporters, it is evident that those prefer authoritarian ruler usually live in backward regions and rural areas, where the people are relatively less educated and where information is relatively closed.

Three, Anti-West sentiments played an important role in both elections

Both Putin and Mubarak had resorted to the propaganda means to stigmatize the opposition which appealed for support with freedom and democracy. They claimed that the opposition was backed by Western forces.

In the Egyptian presidential election in 2005, none of the nine candidates had enough advantage to compete with Hosni Mubarak. Among them, Ayman Nour graduated from the Faculty of Law and gained reputation through his efforts in running a newspaper to promote freedom of expression and democratic values, and was twice elected as member of the Parliament in 1995 and 2000.

Established in 2004, the Tomorrow Party influenced chiefly a few young intellectuals in Cairo. Before the election, Mubarak's camp labeled Nour as “an intermediary to facilitate the Western forces' penetration”. In the eyes of those in Mubarak's camp, all nine candidates contesting alongside Hosni Mubarak could hardly pose any threat to Hosni Mubarak, who had extensive experience in governance. Even the Chinese official media said that, in comparison with Hosni Mubarak, all nine candidates had no hope of victory at all.

The restoration of Russia's status as a great power has always been what Vladimir Putin uses to gain support. All along those support Vladimir Putin claim that some of the opposition is funded by the West. Even after Vladimir Putin has won the election, the “first deputy director of the Russian Strategic Development Simulation Center” reportedly carried on saying similar remarks to Oriental Outlook, a Xinhua subsidiary, “Putin will face many external troubles. I saw in opponents’ campaigns no creativity, even though it is said that some of them received funds from the West.” Putin's supporters even said that, “for other candidates, this election looked more like a political entertainment activity.” “The more activities the opposition organizes, the grimmer their future will be.” Putin's victory was even described as “Russia's triumph over the West”.

The Chinese media spared no ink and efforts in praising the personal charisma of Vladimir Putin and his accomplishments of rescuing Russia from the domestic political chaos of the Yeltsin era. But the praise Hosni Mubarak had at a point received more praise from the Egyptian people than Vladimir Putin does today. The Egyptian eulogized Hosni Mubarak for a range of things: his great accomplishments in the “October War”, his composed manner, his spirit of sacrifice, and his being a knowledgeable person were just several examples. Hosni Mubarak has a colorful, magnificent, and legendary life, one that Vladimir Putin, a mere former KGB major, could in no way be comparable.

Despite all the popularity Hosni Mubarak enjoyed, people's heart changes like tides. Hosni Mubarak was driven off the stage of politics by the Egyptian people for his obsession with power and was made to stand trial inside a cage alongside his wife and his son. Mubarak's wife Suzanne Mubarak, once in the eyes of Egyptian women the guardian of the rights of women in the Arab world, and the best of women, is now facing accusations and humiliations after her husband has been ousted.

When Beijing and Vladimir Putin applaud and cheer for his victory in the presidential election, I'd suggest them to have a look at the stage the erstwhile hero Hosni Mubarak is in now. Think carefully about it, Hosni Mubarak stayed in his country's top post for but a few more years. Had he announced to step down before his term expired or arranged a succession in advance, would he be in this situation of shame and humiliation, being made to stand trial inside a cage?