Sunday, 18 October 2015

Russian Democracy (13/12/11)



For the past decade and more democracy in Russia has been seen as a bit of a joke, I would say.

Perhaps understandably - for a while at least - the Russian people were prepared to place less emphasis on free speech and political accountability - on the basis that the country needed the smack of firm leadership.

After all the first Russian President - Boris Yeltsin - was a terrible buffoon and laughing stock -  who once could not get off his presidential plane an official visit to Ireland - because he was so drunk.   

But there are encouraging signs that ordinary Russians are now beginning to question the free rein they have given to Vladimir Putin - and the small handful of politically connected and very wealthy businessmen - who effectively run the country.

No longer it seems do people swallow the ridiculous sight of Vladimir Putin playing pass the parcel with the Russian Presidency - swapping jobs at will with his old pal Dmitry Medvedev.

The voters it seems are tired of propaganda films which portray their President and/or Prime Minister in an heroic light - innocently stumbling across hidden treasure whilst on a scuba diving holiday - biting the heads off dangerous poisonous snakes - and wrestling a wild tiger into submission with his bare arms.

OK I made the last two up - but you get my point - the game is up and mocking humour is a deadly weapon.

By all accounts the Russian voters are no longer prepared to be fed a diet of pap and nonsense - and want their country to become something more than just the plaything of rich and powerful oligarchs - with political connections to the United Russia party.

If recent elections to the Duma - the Russian Parliament - are anything to go by then the bubble has well and truly burst.

The people interested in genuine democracy in Russia, as opposed to unquestioning support for United Russia and Valdimir Putin, have been getting themselves organised.

Golos, Russia's only independent election monitoring group (funded by the European Union and the United States), published a map listing 6,000 alleged violations of the electoral rules all of which were reported by ordinary Russian citizens.

The Sunday Times reported a video posted by Dmitry Finikov (31) a small businessman who volunteered as an election monitor showing officials at a central Moscow polling station forging election results which boosted United Russia from third place (128 votes) to first place (515 votes).

Other eyewitness reports of election fraud showed mobile phone footage from Yekaterina in which three teachers placed 'ticks' on an entire pack of voting slips and of students in Moscow being paid to join so-called election 'carousels' buses shipping votes to multiple voting stations.

The offices of Golos were raided just prior to the election and several web sites critical of the government came under cyber-attack and were shut down.

Now who would have the resources to do such a thing possibly the same kind of people who can put some radioactive polonium into a pot of tea?

The officals results say that United Russia won 238 of the 450 seats in the Duma - a small majority based on 49.5% of the popular vote which is down from 64% at the last parliamentary elections.

Opposition figures say that in areas like Moscow and St Petersburg where the alleged fraud was greatest United Russia received as little as 30% of the popular vote.

In any event Vladimir Putin appears to have lost his aura, the genie is out of the bottle and protesters have taken to the streets people rejoicing that even with widespread cheating at the polls United Russia 'won' less than 50% support.

Game on as they say and I know whose side I'm on.