Monday, February 06, 2012
My personal opinion is that the Russians vote for him because he has produced an economy growing at 7% annually. My further opinion is that at least an equally large majority would vote for a party in Britain that could credibly make the same offer if they were not going to be both prevented from hearing about it by media censors and disenfranchised by the electoral system.
Lets see what Charles Crawford, Britian's former ambassador to NATO's various starapies in Yugolsavia, very loyal to to the FO line but nonetheless both intelligent and comparatively honest, has to say.
"I played a modest part in the proceedings as an official international observer accredited to the elections under the auspices of the International Institute for Integration Studies, a Moscow-based grouping close to senior circles of power in Russia. The Institute supports various public conferences around the world, including the strange one I attended in Belgrade in June....
In Nizhny Novgorod I was given excellent personal briefings by the Deputy Governor and the head of the local elections commission, who showed me one of the new electronic counting machines being used in a number of polling stations across the country....
International election observers have to try to do three things. They need to look at the rules-in-themselves to see whether they make sense and are reasonable and comprehensive. They need to look at how the rules are then applied to real life: are the procedures on paper being properly followed and interpreted? Finally, they need to look at the process as a whole and to see where it fits into the country's political life.
It cannot be said often enough. Russia is an unfathomably huge country with unique issues of command and control (and associated attitudes to governance) going back many centuries. Until the collapse of communism in 1991 there was no tradition of representative democracy. Setting up democratic institutions and practices (and, most important) creating democratic instincts had to be slow.
The arrangements laid down by Russia’s law for conducting elections are technically impressive, albeit detailed to the point of obsession. Russian procedures are better than ours here in the UK in at least three respects:
Votes are counted in the polling station concerned immediately after the polls close, in the presence of party and other observers (ballot boxes are not moved to central counting points with the risk of mischief en route)
No ID, no vote
No postal voting
Moreover, there are streamlined and well monitored arrangements for getting the election results sent fast to Moscow for central compilation. Amidst the complaints about Russia's elections, you don't hear the argument that the counting of the votes as cast has not been fair and accurate...
So what's the problem?
First, there inevitably are a large number of electoral violations of different shapes and sizes. When I wrote my book review for the LSE on Electronic Voting, I was struck at how we all take for granted the procedural complexity of voting. The following (and many more) are all essential:
voters lists compiled and kept up-to-date
ballot boxes sealed throughout the process
accurate ballot papers printed and distributed under controlled conditions
identification for voters
meticulous and transparent counting, to make sure that all votes are counted and only votes properly cast have been counted
procedures for disputes as to what a messy mark on a given ballot paper might mean
arrangements for recording the final outcome and storing all ballot papers securely in case of future legal challenges.
At literally every stage of the process in any country there is scope for human error and/or deliberate mischief. Ruling out both 100% is impossible.
Thus we need to be careful in agreeing with those who allege “massive violations “of electoral procedures in Russia or anywhere else. If every polling station in Russia has only one complaint about some or other procedural violation, there will be 96,000 complaints! Massive violations! Yet many of those complaints (including two we heard: one party doing some campaigning on the “day of silence" before the elections and not printing its name on election materials) will have been trivial in themselves and quite irrelevant to the final outcome.
Some violations are deliberate and (as far as local conditions allow) systematic. One frequent claim again in Russia is that ‘captive’ voters in mental illness institutions and the Army were lent on hard to vote for the Putin party. (I used to see this in Britain where people from council run old folks homes were all delivered at once by "carers" who were clearly telling them who to vote for but now that we have postal votes it is much simpler - neil) Unofficial crowd-sourced election monitors Golos have put on the Web all sorts of other examples, some filmed as they happened.
Complicated official arrangements such as running a nationwide election work in good part because they are transparent. Yes, in formal terms Russia does all it needs to do to host international and political party observers. But this time round the blatant official and unofficial pressure put on Golos (including denial of service website attacks and the usual insinuations that foreign support for such organisations was illegitimate or sinister) created a very bad impression.
More generally the post-Communist ruling establishment in Russia has changed the law to make it harder for new political parties to make a breakthrough. (Note: UKIP has views on the subject here in the UK Charles' note not mine.) Smaller parties are not allowed to form a single voting bloc. The rules for forming a national party able to contest national elections are excessively strict and not easy to meet. An earlier, excellent option of including on the ballot paper a vote for “none of the above" has been withdrawn. And so on.
Add to all this the violence suffered by some journalists who try to expose official corruption, unrelenting pro-Putin media coverage and the way far too many Russian media outlets condemn or marginalise any liberal views, and you get the sort of outcome which the OSCE fairly criticises. (would that our media were willing to expose official corruption like the Forth bridge costing 8 times what it should or the Muir Russell scandal they censor any mention of; would also that our state controlled "balanced" media did not deliberately censor or marginalise any UKIP or other free market opinions - Neil)
Just look at the results. Four parties have made it into the national parliament, after roughly half the Russian population voted:...
Parties representing a more liberal policy-set involving reduced state control and better human rights either did not get into the race or (as in the case of Yavlinsky's Yabloko party) failed dismally once again. A new supposedly centre-right party Right Cause won only 400,000 votes.
Western commentators and some in Russia are claiming these election results show rising dissatisfaction with the performance of Vladimir Putin. They might even be right. But that dissatisfaction is rising from a low and apathetic base, and insofar as it translates into changed voting it boosts tendencies which are even worse. Compared with the other three national/socialist parties which crossed the threshold to enter the Duma, Putin's party look almost normal. Putin remains the favourite to be voted back in as Russia's president in the forthcoming elections next March....
Under current management Russia is getting steadily more prosperous and steadily more pluralistic, albeit in a specific Russian way. Russians en masse have a (for us) startling capacity for putting up with hardships, including overbearing and neurotic state power. They are not bothered by their leaders sneering at foreigners or homosexuals or liberal attitudes. They do want to see progress and get richer, and they hate corruption and get-rich-quick types....
Yet in Russia as in so many other countries the mass of people are getting more powerful vis-a-vis the state. Perhaps the main story of these elections is the way many Russians are now using cheap mobile technology to follow and record what is happening across their vast country - and Vladimir Putin's so far uncertain response."
For Charles' background it is obvious that though he is broadly honest his biases are towards the British government "pravda"* yet, even on each of the relatively limited criticisms he makes of Russian democracy it comes out ahead of our own current system.
Of course you aren't going to see such honesty on the BBC or in any significant part of our MSM.
Which, as the OSCE's position implies, says more about the fascist parasites running Britain than it ever could about Russia.
Perhaps the British media would be closer to honest and impartial if they were to give as much coverage to the hundreds of EDL protesters in Britain arrested on charges of doing nothing or of being victims of racial attack, than to the very small number of western funded actual Russian rioters arrested. But then one might be drawn to the conclusion that Russia is a much better democracy than Britain.
* "Pravda" means truth. However, since it was the name of the main Soviet newspaper, it came to mean "official truth" rather than actual truth. The state controlled British media largely consists of such pravda.
A government's threat to ban a peaceful organization (because of its opinions) violates the principles of democracy.
Ethnic cleansing in Western Uusimaa in May 1918 and Forssa region. Some 200 Finnish civilians, men and women, were executed by the Swedish battalion in Western Uusimaa. The Swedes executed at least 460 Finns in the spring 1918.
TV and newspapers broadcast disinformation about history and all political issues. Censorship in the mainstream media makes Sweden, Finland and Norway a kind of dictatorship countries, ruled by the political and economic elite.
In the Scandinavian countries the political and economic elite controls the media.