Façade Collapsing? Russian Parliamentary Elections in Perspective
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Tis 4.12.2007 kl. 14:00-14:00
At the time of the seminar, Russia was preparing for both legislative and presidential elections but the choices seemed to have been already made. The FIIA seminar series "Choices made: Russia the rest will have to deal with" examined the characteristics of this emerging system which calls for competitiveness in the economic field while rooting out competition in the political sphere.
Summary of the Seminar
On December 4th, the Finnish Institute of International Affair organised first of its four follow-up seminars on the Russian elections at the Finnish Parliament. Dr Sinikukka Saari was the main speaker of the seminar, the Under-Secretary of State Markus Lyra gave a comment speech and the event was chaired by Dr Arkady Moshes.
Dr Arkady Moshes opened the event by stating that no major changes will be seen in Russia after the March presidential elections. He continued to argue that Russia has already made its choices and the current political structures will remain intact. President Vladimir Putin is at the centre of the Russian political system and nothing can be decided or implemented without his approval. It is clear that Mr Putin will remain in power after March even if we do not know in what way.
At the beginning of Mr Putin’s tenure Russia was a weak state. There was neither vertical of power, nor was there any democracy in place. However, Dr Moshes, argued that the political institutions worked. Currently, the situation has changed totally. Dr Moshes stated that these Duma elections marked the end of façade democracy and there should no positive moods about Russia, but it is time to take a look at the reality.
On the December 2nd elections, four different parties passed the seven percent threshold to gain seats in the State Duma. These parties are United Russia with outstanding majority of the votes, A Just Russia, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of Russian Federation, which is, in fact, the only opposition party. There are neither liberal democratic parties represented in the Duma nor are there any independent representatives.
Dr Sinikukka Saari started her presentation by mentioning that it has often been suggested that there is not much to say about the Russian Duma elections, as it has all been so predictable. However, she challenged this view and attempt to put the elections in a larger perspective in order to start an analytical debate about Russia. According to Dr Saari, three arguments can be made. Firstly, the Duma elections can be seen as wider symptom of non-democratic political system. Secondly, the current system in Russia has been institutionalized and very hard to change from outside or from within. Finally, this political system is not stable in the long run.
Popularity does not equal democracy
Dr Saari suggested that the European Union should be realistic, open and honest in its assessment of the Russian political developments. Moreover, the EU should be firm, consistent and coherent in its cooperation with Russia. The EU should emphasize contact between the Russian and the Western European people. Also, the EU should refrain from empty rhetoric and attempt to find consensus amongst the EU states.
No changes in policies
Question on Leadership
Party system under changes