What’s a tyrant to do? How can one deal with malcontents? That’s easy – hold a rigged referendum and flood the press with stories of how much support one has. This will psychologically destroy the opposition – they will think they have less support then they do. Also, people considering joining the opposition will be deterred believing there isn’t any virility to the movement.
In 2020 Vladimir Putin <<held a referendum that would give him the ability to stay in office until 2036. The voting was marred by election fraud. Press that was not supportive of Putin was labeled foreign agents. Opposition members were denied the right to vote because they were “extremists.” He won 78% to 21% (ABCNews). Gift certificates to those voting for Putin were given out (it’s legal to do that in Russia – Spectator). There was also widespread ballot fraud (ABCNews).
People protested Putin’s authority (NPR). In fact, 2020 was marred by 6 major protests against Putin and 1 against his ally Viktor Lukashenko <<in Belarus (MoscowTimes), against a referendum to extend his rule. This referendum was believed to have also been rife with voter fraud. The Russian military, conveniently, was having joint exercises in Belarus and stepped in to quell the rioters.
Renewed anti Putin protests in Russia began in January of 2021. They were largely a reaction to the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020, and his arrest upon return from a German hospital (Wikipedia and openDemocracy). Navalny went on a hunger strike and the Russian government arrested over 1,700 people (NPR).
Did you know? He wasn’t the only one. Prominent opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned in 2017. He was recently arrested for predicting Russia would lose the conflict in Ukraine (CBSNews).
What is a tyrant to do in a situation like this? How does one stop the protests and shift attention away from oneself? That’s easy – invade Ukraine. It’s not a large country and has half the population. It should be a pushover and the world wil turn a blind eye like they did in 2014 when Putin invaded Crimea. What could possibly go wrong? Who’s really calling the shots?
Related; “Why the Crimean Referendum Is Illegitimate” (CFR.org)