Forget 2011, there is a real threat to democracy in Russia in 2013

In 2011, there were protests concerning alleged election fraud by United Russia – which is now in government. Whilst it is near impossible to suggest that in a country such as Russia (that has only recently had comparatively free and fair elections) is completely clean of fraud, the exit polls (and  predictions by sociologists) showed a very small margin of error – let alone a sign that the election itself was rigged.

On Wednesday, it was announced that there would be an overhaul of the current system. Buried beneath the news of Depardieu’s defection, the new bill will change Russian elections from a proportional system to a combination of proportional and majoritarian systems. Did you hear of any protests?

Putin & Medvedev (with the UR logo in the background)

Putin & Medvedev (with the UR logo in the background). Putin’s new bill is likely to benefit incumbents heavily.

 

There is a very clear comparison for this to show what will change, as Russia had this system up unti 2003 until the current administration changed it for more proportional elections. Back in 2003, United Russia won nearly half of seats available – even though it only got 38% and 24% in the proportional and majoritarian elections respectively. Whilst the system isn’t undemocratic in itself, this is perhaps a tactic of a ruling party that worries its days are numbered. Whether you agree with that or not, even most who agree with their policies would think such a move dishonest at the least.

The new system will also, somewhat ironically, lower the amount of complaints against electoral fraud whilst doing little about it compared to other recent bills concerning elections (that tended to have the opposite effect). This is because fraud, or accusing those of fraud, will only be worth it if your party wins that seat as results count only as wins/losses.

A funny concept too, is the fact that whilst many in the West have suggested that it was too hard to form a party in Russia, the New York Times now suggests that it was too easy – saying:

Mr. Putin, in a speech to the Russian Parliament last month, described the proposed change as a continuation of liberalization efforts that began last year with an easing of restrictions on creating political parties. Critics of that process say it is now too easy to form a party, effectively splintering the opposition like a shattered pane of glass.”

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