The Fragile State Of Russian Democracy

The Economist has a good backgrounder on the recent elections in Russia in which pro-Putin parties dominated the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the Duma. Putin’s United Russia party swept the elections with 37% of the vote. The more classically liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces (SPS) did not have enough votes to even obtain a seat in the election.

Putin has been extending a more authoritarian rule during his term, insuring that the media is largely state-run and cementing his power base. Putin has embraced certain reforms, but there are worrying signs that he has no intentions of forming a real democracy. Even the US has criticized the recent elections in Russia as being shaped by the slavish media coverage of United Russia from the state-controlled media.

The real test of Russian democracy will be in the first time an opposition party is able to win the vote. If a party like Yabloko was able to become a true electoral force in Russia, (and given Yabloko’s pro-market and pro-Western stances that would be a very good thing indeed) Putin could face a true challenge. If such an event occurs it will be a real test of whether he intends to be a President or a dictator.

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