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Friday, February 08, 2008

Another Original LR Translation: Inspecting Russian Elections (by our Original Translator)

Better They Not Come At All

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

February 6, 2008

The latest round of negotiations between international election monitors and the Russian Central Elections Commission (CEC) on exactly how the former will be allowed to observe the Russian presidential elections scheduled for March 2, has ended without result. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) insists on having its main group of 50 observers arrive in Russia no later than Friday, February 15. “What Russia has offered us is good, but we insist that our observers be allowed to arrive in Russia no later that next week, even if it is on February 15,” announced ODIHR representative Curtis Badden.

The CEC earlier had issued an announcement saying that Russia was prepared to grant a concession to the ODIHR and receive a group of five technical specialists as early as February 5. The first group of 20 observers would then be allowed to begin work on February 8, while the main group of 50 observers could begin on February 20.


Evgeniy Ikhlov, “For Human Rights” (Za Prava Cheloveka)

The arrival of election observers means that the elections will be viewed as a democratic process. Indeed, there are no elections in China, North Korea or Vietnam. But human rights workers back in September announced that under the current system, in which the opposition has no access to mass media and absolute tyranny reigns - confiscation of campaign materials, surveillance of activists, state-controlled mass media acting as if they belonged to a particular party - in these conditions, elections mean nothing. They become just a ritual. The arrival of a delegation of international human rights workers on the day of this ritual would be a joke. They could have with equal success come and observed Brezhnev’s elections - back then there was also perfect order and no manipulations of any sort.

At issue is something completely different: it is understood that monitoring the election situation can be done only in the context of the information campaign that is conducted well before the elections. On the eve of elections or the day of voting, there is nothing to see in this regard. It will be established only that the people came and voted, and of course they will mostly vote for the Kremlin’s candidate. But elections are not simply a matter of counting votes. They are a complex democratic process, which includes a number of other things: access to mass media (for example, the refusal of the main candidate to participate in debates - this is certainly interesting too), the absence or presence of pressure on people, and whether intimidation or force are used to make them vote.

What will they see on the February 20 or 25, just ten days before the ritual? Everything will occur on cue: they will talk with students, teachers and doctors; everyone will turn out; the absentee ballots will be gathered. What sense is there in watching the final spectacle?

Of all the principles of democracy, there is really only one we have to adhere to: submit to the arithmetic majority from the elections. Everything else - access to the media, freedom of civil action, freedom of assembly and rallies - all of these things, it has been made clear, are not in fact guaranteed under the Constitution. Only one thing is guaranteed: the will of the people will be shown by the majority of those voting for it. How this majority is achieved is of no importance. There is no guarantee that all socio-political movements will have an equal opportunity to appeal to the nation. None at all. And this is not a shortcoming, not a violation, but simple the absence of a basis for democracy. If a person has no legs, you can hardly say he walks badly. And so it is with democracy in Russia: there is no democratic tradition, no way for public opinion to influence events, no basis for democracy. The country is run by lawyers and hair-splitters, in the worst sense of the word - they obsess over every dot on an “i”. You get just exactly what is written down. It is said you will have access to the media, fine: you can give your campaign speech on TV... at 7:00 a.m. At seven o’clock in the morning, you can appear for five minutes and talk about the issues of the day to your fellow citizens who have not yet waken up. The citizen expresses his view of all this by simply not voting. And the election observer asks, What exactly is it that I am supposed to be observing?

I am convinced that the best way for these negotiations to end would be for the OSCE representatives to say: “This is not an election, this is a farce. It bears no relationship whatsoever to democracy. We have no intention of observing it.”

1 comment:

BrianFH said...

In Soviet days, workers said, "The State pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work." In Putin's democracy, "The State pretends to hold elections, and we pretend to vote."

Russians are SUCH kidders!