Martin Dewhirst on the choice before Russian voters

posted 2 Dec 2011, 01:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Dec 2011, 02:36 ]
The present Moscow White House and Kremlin seem to be less tolerant of 'glasnost'' than the Gorbachev faction of the CPSU was in the late 1980s.

"If I was a citizen of the RF I would definitely vote on Sunday, despite knowing that the 'election' would be far from free and fair. More importantly, I would already have been observing the pre-'election' process and informing the excellent 'Golos' organisation of any violations of the rules and regulations that I had noticed. The run-up to polling day is in some ways more important than what happens on the day itself. ('Golos' seems to have got the Russian neo-Soviet political Establishment really rattled. Its name is etymologically connected to 'glasnost'', not entirely adequately translated as 'transparency'. The present Moscow White House and Kremlin seem to be less tolerant of 'glasnost'' than the Gorbachev faction of the CPSU was in the late 1980s.) What to me is really important is the overall trend or tendency. Are the 2011 'elections' more free and fair or less free and fair than the corresponding 'elections' in 2007, 2003 and 1999? I would be trying to answer that question in my area and discussing it with friends and colleagues elsewhere in the RF.

Why would I vote (as well as observe) on Sunday, being sure that the results would be manipulated at a higher level, if not at any 'observable' levels? Because I think that for all their faults 'elections' even under the wretched Putin regime are at least somewhat more like real elections than 'elections' were in Soviet Russia from 1918 until the late 1980s. I have been an official observer (for the OSCE/ODIHR) of a dozen elections and 'elections' in the former USSR, and on many occasions I have been really moved by how seriously (often in contrast to the situation in my country, where elections are taken for granted by most people, and a huge proportion of the electorate doesn't bother to vote) the opportunity is taken to express one's preference, if one so desires, for a party other than the one in power. At least afterwards such people can tell their friends and family that they at least tried to improve the political situation in their country, however minimal the chances of success. And on this occasion, the more votes there are for parties other than United Russia just might increase the chances of forcing the regime to tolerate the development of a stronger, more active and more tolerant independent society.

Personally, I always prefer to be proactive and positive rather than purely negative, and so I vote for a person or a party rather than against certain people and certain parties. So, if I could, I would vote for Yabloko, if only as the least bad choice." 

- from 'Dilemmas of the Russian Voter', Rights in Russia, 1 December 2011

Martin Dewhirst lectured on Russian literature and history at the University of Glasgow from 1964 until 2000. He is an expert on Russian Samizdat and on the Tsarist, Soviet and neoSoviet systems of censorship. Of late he has been working to improve the conditions in which people deprived of liberty in Russia are held.