September, 18th.: It is the Election Day in Russia. People want to believe in democracy but it does not feel like it.
It has been the first time the most powerful party took part in the debates on TV. It has been also the first time more than ten parties participated in the elections. It has been the first time the system of voting has changed as now the people have to vote not just for the party but also for one candidate. This seems to be democratic but in reality, it is not.
Firstly, not all debates were shown on the main TV channels. This makes sense when we see that the government owns these channels. Of course, people could find all the information about the debates on the Internet but not everyone has access and desire to search the Internet or to watch some oppositional TV channels just to receive some other perspectives. Propaganda has been done quite well. The topics of the debates have been prepared beforehand and everybody knows what to say. There have not been any heated and intense discussions, just well-known words and promises.
Secondly, many parties participated in the elections but not all of them were equally represented in the media so that many people were not even aware of their party program.
It seems to be unbelievable, but in 2011 the opposition seemed stronger than in 2016 after the annexation of the Crimea, the sanctions and the crisis in the country itself.
However, if the people wanted some changes, how could it happen that the ruling party won again and got, even more, votes than in 2011?
So, who voted for Putin’s party? First of all, it’s well-known that all people that “serve the government”, for example, the army, the police, doctors and teachers have been forced to vote for the ruling party. It took place in 2011 and it happened again in 2016.
How does it work? The heads of the state institutions were told to make all their subordinates to vote for the ruling party. Otherwise, they could lose their jobs easily. The amount of people who work in state institutions equals to 33 million people while 110 million people in total can vote. Then the state subordinates are either given a right to vote beforehand or they just come quite early to the voting place and the head of the department controls which party the subordinates have chosen.
Secondly, even at schools parents were told to vote for the “you-know-which-party”. Seems to be crazy but it’s the reality of life at the moment. While it is not possible in this case to check, who has voted for whom, this method of persuasion is often times successful which is not a good sign for any political system that calls itself a democracy.
Thirdly, all elderly citizens who receive the pension money have been promised to be given a present of 5000 rubles in 2017. Moreover, in small villages and towns, people hold no interest in the political life of the country, they just believe the official state propaganda and blindly vote for Putin’s party.
The key argument here is: “Who else if not Putin?”. They do not understand that Putin is not the only person in the country nor that he is not the tsar of Russia. Adding to this is that the observers at the polling stations have the power to change or even destroy bulletins in favour for the ruling party.
Why did the real opposition lose? It is sad to admit that but that is the reality that we have to accept and live with. Firstly, there were many oppositional parties and Putin did not allow them to unite before the elections. Secondly, unfortunately for all, the most popular oppositional party, the “PARNAS”, ruled by a former Prime Minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, and the most popular oppositional, young politician Alexey Navalny, did not agree about the official leaders of the party and the process of voting for them. When there is no unity in the party, it is clear the party loses in popularity and in votes.
Thirdly, it is not really possible to speak out against the current system, as it is impossible to freely go to the streets and take part in demonstrations against the authorities. Therefore, many people who would like to go out and voice their opinions are unable to do so.
Moreover, there is a new rule since 2016: foreign residents with Russian citizenship have to be registered to vote, but in order to be registered you have to pay around 100 Euros. Russians living abroad will most likely not vote for the current authorities as some of them left the country due to them. The ruling party most probably knows this and this might be a reason for the new rule.
What does the future hold for us?
It’s absolutely clear who is going to be the President in 2018. The only unclear thing is whether the citizens of the country get a right to vote and to be heard. It is partially the general mood throughout the society to ignore the elections and protest against the current situation.
However, how can it be that the ruling party can already announce their victory the minute the polls are closed? How could they have known that they won if the votes are not even counted? The answer is clear.
This moment makes you feel sad and diminished because you realise that your vote does not decide anything, as everything has already been decided for you. You have no vote, you just have to accept the decisions given to you from the top.
Is this democracy? No. Your vote has been stolen and this is no form of democracy, but a rather a game for show.