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What have they done?
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-12-07 09:16:54
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The moral of the Russian elections is that to have elections doesn’t mean that you have democracy! Putin got exactly what he wanted and Putin’s opposition got exactly what …he wanted, in the meantime, Russians try to find their lost dignity and the world carefully notes that something has gone wrong with these elections. The European Union was especially critical with a long announcement referring to suspicious transgressions and illegalities and the Bush administration admit that there are issues!

Of course there are issues, but these issues have to do with how we identify democracy and not with Russia. Let’s see, Pakistan; with a military coup a general takes over, imprisons all the politicians and closes down every single democratic institution. After a while he changes the institution in a way to work for him and him only, he becomes President of democracy – every opposition is still imprisoned – he makes sure by law that he has immunity for life and then he decides that the country can have …democratic elections but only his way, with the opposition he likes. What did the EU and the US administration do? They happily saluted Musharraf’s efforts for a democratic Pakistan! The man is photographed wearing a cowboy hat in the Texas ranch of the American president!

Time goes and we are getting closer to elections but Musharraf decides that he’s not sure if he wants to give up his supreme control over everything in Pakistan, he is the leader of the army, the president, the Prime minister, minister and I don’t know what else, so what he’s doing? The most democratic thing, he declares marshal law and imprisons every opposition, after a little pressure he says, ‘sorry mea culpa’ and he gives up his military uniform to be only president, supreme ruler, democratic emperor and whatever else he calls himself. The EU and the American administration salute democratic Musharraf and await the February elections – with most of the opposition still imprisoned and only the ones who kiss Musharraf’s ass free – to prove that democracy has landed in Pakistan!

Do you need more examples? Turkey has the record for military coups in the last thirty years, a country where, despite all the efforts of Prime Minister Erdogan, the army controls and vetoes behind the scenes, an army that can keep all opposition to its wills and wishes either imprisoning them or constantly threatening in a very terminator way, ‘I will be back!’; it is a country that paramilitary groups, supported by the army, can kill a reporter because he made loud his opposition, a country where freedom of speech can cost you time on the Midnight Express and finally a country that has the record against decisions from the European Court of Human Rights is a valuable ally of the American administrator and a candidate country for the democratic Europe.

So what’s wrong with Putin’s elections? Actually he didn’t do anything of the above and he’s one of the strongest supporters in the war against terrorists? He’s nearly driving Chechens into genocide but what’s the difference with what the Turks do with the Kurds? He didn’t imprison his opposition like Musharraf did; he only reminded them that Siberia is still there.

Democracy is not something you can give or force, democracy is not just elections, China had elections a few months ago, does that make China a democratic country? One party, that’s China’s democracy! Where is freedom of speech, where is equality and respect …unknown, but they do have elections!

Democracy is a word that includes a world of rights and obligations. Democracy is very sensitive and we have to be constantly in alarm, democracy is freedom of speech and freedom of expressing. Democracy, as I mentioned in the beginning, is not something you force, it is something you show by example. Musharaf’s Pakistan is long way from anything democratic, Erdogan is trying but Turkey is still far from democracy, Putin’s Russia is really far from democracy but when you consider Pakistan and Turkey as example democracies then the only thing you can say to Putin is that you have ‘strong concerns over the result!’ Western observers said the vote was not fair. That’s all they could say! That’s how low they have put our democracy, in concerns and fair or unfair!

There was nothing fair about Putin’s elections and I’m not just concern, I’m devastated over what he’s doing to an institution like democracy, but I am definitely concerned to how low the EU and American administrations have brought a supreme institution like democracy.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-07 13:38:36
Indeed, a forced democracy is undoubtedly an oxymoron. Democracy is certainly much more than elections. But if truth be told, we have never had pure democracy and freedom here on earth. It was certainly a noble experiment of the ancient Greeks who devised it but it lacked the concept of inalienable rights accruing to each human being just for being a human being. The Jews of the time came closer to the ideal with their concept that God freely creates creatures who remain free to accept or reject Him and to mirror or not mirror His freedom. The founding fathers of the US hypocritically declared that all men are created equal, but certain men were more equal than others, and some are only three quarter human, thus they betrayed the concept of inalienable rights which was and remains a Christian concept and a sine qua non for a real democracy. Jefferson did not invent it one fine day, he just betrayed it by holding slaves, as Washington also did. The civil war and the civil rights movement rectified but never installed the practice of that ideal. So, given that human nature has not changed much over thousands of years, much work remains to be done to arrive at the ideal of pure democracy. Ignazio Silone called it “the conspiracy of hope.”

Eero Nevalainen2007-12-08 17:23:30
Seriously, the more scary part about the whole Russian affair is the fact that I really don't think the election was outright stolen to a large degree. Sure, the election laws limit small parties and all that, but if the opposition really wanted to get its act together and was supported, it could form a substantial opposition bloc in the Duma.

In the meantime, one just needs to conclude that over half of Russians really are happy voting for a Putin party. It's no use really blaming him for hogging the media and such; after all, he isn't outright telling people how to vote. Propaganda is irrelevant if people really wanted change from Putin, and the vehicle is there -- it's just not used.

Btw, am I the only one feeling like Putin's "nashi-youth" sound like Nazis with a speech impediment?

Jack2007-12-09 00:43:37
The most notable thing in the past Russian election was that the nation itself voted Puttin's party into power and this sends a chilling sign I believe: that democracy and it's associated freedoms are no match for the general population's apathy toward it and that whatever is in their best [financial] interests is more important.

Is this two steps backward after one step forward (some years ago)?

Polictics and prosperity always seem to outweigh people and their fundamental pursuit of happiness. In other words, things are more important than people.

Generally speaking, most people would choose Democracy over most any other forms of government. Sadly, it is most frequently taken for granted.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-09 11:41:07
Indeed, half of the world would probably settle for bread and security and some entertainment. The Romans called it bread and circus. Fortunately there is another half that thinks that man does not live by bread and circus alone and so the conspiracy of hope is alive and well two thousand years after the invention of democracy.

Eero Nevalainen2007-12-09 16:11:01
I tend to believe though that in a democracy people are supposed to "vote for what is in their best interests". That's what the whole point of democracy is, if it is going to have any meaning beyond a mere word. I *am* glad that Russia is emerging from the chaos of the 90s, and people should be getting some kind of a self-esteem kick out of that... it's the pretty much completely unneccessary authoritarian and nationalist elements that worry me. When it comes to the way "real democracy" is defined in economic terms though, I'm lefty enough to recognize that those who preach most the virtues of "not living only of bread" are the most likely to have the "financial interests" and also to claim, when useful to their position, that essentially all is indeed economics and that democratic interference in it is undesirable...

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-10 02:49:55
And if one keeps on going a bit more to the left one evemtially ends up with the position of the so called People's Republic of China which is certainly not democratic, nor a Republic, nor of the people and where undoubtedly "all is economics." Paradoxically that is also the position of the libertarians on the far right: the individual's search for his own interests is sacrosant and should not be interfered with or regulated by anybody not even for the common good. Indeed, there are always two sides to the same coin of despotism and Churchill had it on target when he said that Democracy is the worst kind of government, except for all the others. In fact, all the others are either to the extreme left or the extreme right and are underpinned by ideological fanaticism. Dostoyevsky described it well ahead of time in his novel The Possessed.

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