The death of Russian democracy

While we’re looking the other way, democracy in Russia is about to die. Accoding to the Guardian:

The Kremlin is planning to rig the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sunday by forcing millions of public sector workers across the country to vote, the Guardian has learned.

Local administration officials have called in thousands of staff on their day off in an attempt to engineer a massive and inflated victory for President Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party. Voters are being pressured to vote for United Russia or risk losing their jobs, their accommodation or bonuses, the Guardian has been told in numerous interviews with byudzhetniki (public sector workers), students and ordinary citizens.

Doctors, teachers, university deans, students and even workers at psychiatric clinics have been warned they have to vote. Failure to do so will entail serious consequences, they have been told.

Analysts say the pressure is designed to ensure a resounding win for the United Russia party and for Putin, who heads its party list. The victory would give him a public mandate to maintain ultimate power in the country as “National Leader” despite being unable to stand for a third term as president in March.

In September, Putin dismissed Russia’s government and appointed an ally as prime minister, while the chairman of Russia’s upper house of parliament urged him to run again for president, in 2012. On October 1, Putin hinted that he might retain power by moving from the president’s office to the prime minister’s. And now this rigged election.

For a much more comprehensive view of Putin’s dismantling of Russian democracy, you can visit my link-laden earlier diary: Losing Russia.

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Meanwhile, Amnesty International has this to say:

The Russian authorities have displayed a systematic disregard for basic human rights in the run-up to parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2 December.

Over the last few months, the authorities have made numerous attempts to interfere with the right to freedoms of assembly, association and expression – both of supporters of the political opposition and of human rights activists and journalists….

“From the unprovoked arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Garry Kasparov, to the beating of journalists and human rights defenders and the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, the Russian authorities have created a climate in which it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to express dissenting views and to report these,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

And Human Rights Watch adds:

Russia will go to the polls for the December 2 parliamentary elections in a deteriorating human rights situation where fundamental freedoms vital to free and fair elections are curtailed.

In the lead-up to these parliamentary elections and the March 2, 2008 presidential elections, authorities are enforcing greater restrictions on protest rallies and tightening controls over civil society, and continue to curb what remains of the independent media. Impunity for serious human rights abuses in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus persists, and vulnerable groups such as sexual minorities, asylum seekers, migrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS are at particular risk of abuse.  

Russia has made it difficult for international actors to monitor the elections. Three weeks before the elections, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (an intergovernmental organization that monitors elections to assess compliance with international standards) announced it would not send monitors to the elections due to Russia’s stalling on visas and imposition of restrictions on its monitoring mission.

It would be nice if we had a government capable of somehow responsibly addressing what’s happening in Russia, but this is just another in the endless catalogue of international issues about which the Bush Administration has shown nothing but ineptitude. As I concluded that earlier diary:

In July, in what would, if spoken by any other world leader, be considered bizarre stupidity, Bush suggested to Putin that he attempt to emulate what Bush considers to be the development of democracy in Iraq! As reported by CNN:

During a joint news conference Saturday in St. Petersburg, Bush said he raised concerns about democracy in Russia during a frank discussion with the Russian leader.

“I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there’s a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same,” Bush said.

To that, Putin replied, “We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly.”

Needless to say, Putin had a valid point. Also needless to say, it would be nice if Bush could manage a better model of democracy towards which Putin should aspire. At this point, any model would be an improvement.

“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul.

“He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship,”  Mr Bush said.

June 16, 2001

Bush looked into Putin’s soul and saw the man he’d like to be.

18 comments

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  1. the Russian Dictatorship versus the American Dictatorship…

    should be quite the arm-wrestle…

  2. if he was not so busy dismantling democracy in America. Torture, rendition, warrantless surveillance, tax cuts for the rich, ignoring the poor and uninsured, Katrina, the list is long.  In addition to use Iraq as an example of how democracy is working when the government there seems to have totally opted out of the governing process to secure their own positions is hardly a carrot to coax Putin, who is a very smart man and is  calculating exactly how far the West will let him go before  kicking him out of their club. He has lots and lots of oil, we need his oil. Simple.

    I am surprised that I can still be surprised at how ignorant of       global realities and what a simpleton Bush is.

  3. example with Iraq.

    Pakistan.

    It’s worth taking a moment to be grateful for the history and stability of our own system.  The worst of the worst here can’t wreck our institutions overnight, or even overnight.

    Although voter caging, Rove’s meetings with Federal agencies, telling them to back the Republican party, and, you know, so on, represent a very good try at a permanent one-party majority.

    But this essay is about Russia, so to return to the point: the Russians have to put up with so much bullshit and worse than bullshit in the past forever, one wishes they could get a break.  It shouldn’t be such a miracle for a battered country to get a decent group of people in leadership, for a span of years, relatively uncorrupt, really interested in the interests of their own people and future.

    It just shouldn’t be that rare.  Humanity, one wants to think, isn’t that sparcely sprinkled with people who are both ambitious and decent.

    But, it seems, it is rare.  And that’s disquieting.  It says something about us.  

    • documel on December 1, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Did Putin learn this from Rove or from Stalin?

  4. I remember when they started cracking down on NGOs a year or 2 ago. the writing was on the wall. it’s just coming to fruition now.

    hats off to all the gutsy people still trying to organize over there though.

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