Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moving forward or slipping back?

NYT - Russians to Vote, but Some Parties Lose in Advance
Two candidates in local elections here in March, a soccer star and figure skating champion, have no known intention of giving up sports for legislative politics. If they win, as they almost certainly will, their Kremlin-friendly parties, not the voters, will choose the candidates to fill their seats.

An opposition party was kicked off the ballot for forging signatures but given little chance to prove otherwise. Government-controlled television has effectively barred parties except those loyal to President Vladimir V. Putin from the airwaves.

The elections here on March 11, like those in 13 other regions, will preview coming national elections in which voters’ choices will be severely limited at best. “Democracy?” asked Vladimir I. Fyodorov, a leader of the Communist Party here, which faces an uphill task of winning any seats to the city’s 50-member legislature. “I would not call the process under way in our country democracy.”
Others have a different explanation for what is going on
Vadim A. Tulpanov, the incumbent chairman of St. Petersburg’s legislature, dismissed criticism of Yabloko’s registration troubles, calling them self-inflicted. He said the election simply reflected the natural evolution of Russia’s young democracy, with the old parties like Yabloko and the Communists losing their popular appeal.

“Gradually in Russia, as I understand it, a two-party system is being created, like in America,” he said.
Since I am not that familiar with how the party system in Russia has worked since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is difficult for me to comment on which explanation is best, at this point. However, given Putin's recent return to anti-US rhetoric, I think it is something that bears watching closely.

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