Feature

Legislating democracy out of existence

The week's news at a glance.

Russia

Aleksandr KolesnichenkoNovye Izvestiya

The Russian legislature is slowly dismantling Russian democracy, said Aleksandr Kolesnichenko in Moscow’s Novye Izvestiya. The State Duma, dominated by the United Russia party, has been chipping away at the election laws for the past few years, doing the bidding of Russia’s autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. Next week, assuming the Duma abolishes the minimum turnout requirement for an election to be valid, "universal suffrage will be all but eliminated." Here’s how it happened: In the first flush of Russian democracy, in the early 1990s, any party, movement, or bloc could get seats in the Duma if it got 5 percent of the vote. Ordinary citizens could nominate themselves or others. Now, dozens of incremental changes later, only parties that have passed a cumbersome registration process can get seats, and only with 7 percent. "And in order to prevent citizens from expressing a lack of confidence in the electoral system, the option "none of the above" has been abolished." Since ordinary citizens have been "shut out of the process," we can expect voter turnout to dwindle away. Of course, that suits those in power just fine: With the abolition of the 20 percent minimum turnout rule, they can guarantee that elections of a few elites by a few elites will be legal. Once again, as in Soviet days, elections will be "a decorative facade."

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