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United Russia Denies Democracy

Paul Goble blogs about a Vedomosti article which reveals the early findings of a new report, interviewing some 100 different members of the ruling United Russia party:

The Moscow newspaper obtained an advance copy of the report and quotes liberally from it. According to the Institute study, “it is difficult to recognize the political system of Russia as a liberal democracy.” Governors are appointed in much the same way that “obkom first secretaries were in communist times, and the media now resembles that of the stagnation period.

There is now “an imitation of party democracy” of the kind that existed a generation ago, the Institute report continues, and just like in Soviet times, in Russia today, “it is better not to have any dealings with the militia,” whose members are corrupt and largely unrestrained by law or the courts.

But having said this, the report argues that “the democratization of the political system of Russia cannot be a priority.” Indeed, its authors insist, promoting the dissemination of liberal values and practices would be “harmful and useless.” Instead, it says, what the country’s leaders should be seeking is “effective” governance.

That is especially the case now, the report continues, during the economic crisis, a time when leadership requires “charisma,” something that does not fit all that well “with ordinary competitive democracy.” And Russians must recognize that “democratization is far from the only path to effective rule.”