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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Britain About 2% As Close To Democract as Russia - OECD & BBC Standards

   I promised to write on this yesterday. Today the Sun published a poll putting us 1 point ahead of the Lib Dems which removes any possible doubt about who is the 3rd party. My original calculation of the degree of state censorship on party lines - eg that UKIP get only 1/;40th as much coverage per vote as the Greens - was based on UKIP getting 4% of the UK vote at the last election and the Greens 1%. That suggests the imbalance is now nearer 100 to 1. Which puts the following in perspective.

  By the same polls the Tories are the 2nd party. If the Tories are smart this will mean they very quickly ditch Cameron and start adopting some real free market libertarian positions, before they start losing not just members but MPs to UKIP. The Tories have rarely been accused of being smart but neither have they been accused of being gentle with leaders who fail them.

   The BBC heavily promoted the claim, made by the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OECD)  that the Russian elections had not been democratic. Linked here though in the Orwellian tradition of that organisation their own search facility now denies they ever even mentioned that election. I have previously gone into some detail on the matter.

    So what did the OECD actually say? Well here it is.
Although candidates in yesterday’s presidential election in the Russian Federation were able to campaign unhindered, conditions were clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the international observers concluded in a statement issued today.
The observers noted that all candidates had access to the media, but the Prime Minister was given a clear advantage over his competitors in terms of media presence. In addition, state resources were mobilized at the regional level in his support. Also, overly restrictive candidate registration requirements limited genuine competition....
Voting on election day was assessed positively overall, but the process deteriorated during the vote count which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed due to procedural irregularities.
  So lets compare and contrast.

  Firstly the one thing the OECD don't mention is the electoral system. Russia has a fully proportional system whereas we have FPTP, a system deliberately maintained by the Labour and Conservative parties for the purpose of ensuring that it takes many times more votes to elect an opposition party than to elect one of their's.  That undeniably produces " limited genuibe competition" and is "overly restrictive" of opposition candidates. On that basis the Russian system is infinitely better.

Secondly there are unspecified problems with the vote count. However the very fact that they are unspecified suggests this is not a serious problem. Vladimir |Putin agrees.
"It's possible there were irregularities, probably there were some. But they can only influence hundredths of a per cent. Well, maybe one per cent; that I can imagine. But no more."[

  For those who we need a more pro-western observer there is Charles Crawford, who as a foreign Office operative somebody involved in the wars against Yugoslavia and overthrowing Milosevic certainly cannot be accused of a pro-Russian bias. He rules out fraud on any more massive scale too.
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.

Complicated official arrangements such as running a nationwide election work in good part because they are transparent... An earlier, excellent option of including on the ballot paper a vote for “none of the above" has been withdrawn. ....
 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....
Yet in Russia as in so many other countries the mass of people are getting more powerful vis-a-vis the state.
   By comparison Britain's system is far more open to fraud. The easy postal ballot system was introduced in such a way that massive fraud was deliberately made easy. As a Judge said in the Birmingham vote fraud trial
There are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated", that "Frauds of this magnitude require a considerable degree of organisation and manpower, not to mention supervision and co-ordination. It would be unthinkable for them to be the work of a few hothead activists", & of Prescott's reforms which made fraud possible on this scale that this was "positive assistance to fraud "...... "Short of writing 'Steal Me' on the envelopes, it is hard to see what more could be done to ensure their coming into the wrong hands".

  That was in 2005 and, quite deliberately, nothing has been done since.

  This accounts for 4 million votes, (out of about 26 1/2 million or 15%) a far larger number than needed to reverse any UK election. Obviously voting fraud is far easier for parties with large organisations and far easier yet again for those who control the instruments of the state. Neither Labour nor Tories can be unaware of this. Unless no postal ballots from the "captive" voters, usually in retirement homes, were ever filled in in the presence of "professional carers" the pressure Charles mentions would have to be intrinsic to the British system and it clearly is.
   We equally lack the "none of the above option" which is said to be a serious objection to calling Russia democratic.
   Clearly on the second count fraud in British elections is around a 15 & perhaps 1500 times more serious problem.
Thirdly the most serious charge against the Russian elections is that government ownership of much of the media has been used to give Putin more coverage than he should have. So lets make comparisons
The media of Russia is diverse, with a wide range of broadcast and print outlets are available to the consumer, offering all kinds of perspectives and catering for all tastes.  
There are 330 television channels in total. 3 channels have a nationwide outreach (over 90% coverage of the Russian territory): First Channel, Rossiya and NTV.According to 2005 television ratings, the most popular channel was First Channel (22.9%), followed by Rossiya (22.6%). The survey responders' local TV company was third with a rating of 12.3%. The three national TV channels provide both news and entertainment, while the most popular entertainment-only channels are STS (10.3% rating) and TNT (6.7%).
  That does give the government a pretty strong hold on the broadcast media. But not stronger than in Britain where the BBC the government broadcaster, paid out of taxes and thus not seriously responsive to audiences. Channel 4 is almost a carbon copy, paid out of taxes on advertisers. "Independent" TV is heavily controlled by the government regulator Ofgem, committed to enforcing there the same "balanced" reporting the BBC does. This might be OK in both Russia and Britain if the power of censorship was not used but, at least in Britain, it is used vigorously. The BBC admit they censor & lie to promote the global warming scare story. They also censor to stop the British people knowing of the (ex-)Nazi war crimes the main party leaders are complicit in. Also they censor on purely party lines, for example ensuring that UKIP get less than 1/40th as much coverage as the officially supported eco-fascist party.

   By comparison in Russia
The channels do, however, provide large amounts of free airtime to all opposition election candidates, as required by law. During the Russian presidential election, 2008, the four presidential candidates all received 21 hours of airtime on the three main channels to debate each other and present their views
  The candidate with the smallest vote got 3.85% of the vote (in a PR election), less than UKIP (in a FPTP) election yet during the last Westminster election UKIP was almost entirely excluded from any coverage on the BBC and limited to
Other registered parties should qualify for a PEB if they are contesting one sixth or more of the seats up for election
    That's one unit of 4 mins 40 seconds repeated on 5 channels. being generous that comes to 23.3 mins. That is 1/54th of what equivalent parties get, by right, in Russia. I also remember our BBC coverage during the Scottish election - it consisted of  1 1/;2 minutes at noon on Sunday after  all the tiny socialist fragments had had rather longer.
   So it depends how you cut it - Britain is either infinitely or 15-1500 times or 54 times further from the Russia the BBC repeatedly insists is undemocratic.

   At the very least we need every significant party to get proportional access to the state owned media; to have a thorough housecleaning of the "journalists" on those broadcasters who clearly accept that their job is to lie and censor rather than report the news; and  for all significant parties (those that get 3.85% or more though I would not object if the government insisted on going down to 1% to include the Greens) should get 21 hours of airtime to use as they wish, including debating.

   That should be followed by a Speaker's conference to determine what is needed to guarantee long term freedom and make us somewhat more democratic than Russia.

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