Get the latest updates as we post them right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Some Lessons in Messy Democracy

The most important effect of Tuesdays U.S. presidential election for this country may be the amount of attention its gotten. NTV started its television coverage Tuesday even before most of the U.S. polls opened and gave special reports almost hourly Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning from its correspondents in Austin, Nashville and New York. State television RTR had only slightly less thorough coverage.

Elections with competing candidates have been held here for only about a decade and have been marred by biased news coverage and other tactics that favor incumbents. These devices are euphemistically referred to as "administrative resources." Strong evidence of vote-counting irregularities in President Vladimir Putins election victory in March has been thoroughly documented by this newspaper. (See Special Report.) For all of its progress toward democracy, Russia still hasnt had a peaceful transfer of power. Putins election was neither peaceful consider the war in Chechnya nor was power transferred beyond Boris Yeltsins circle of intimates.

The attention that Tuesdays election has received may help Russias citizens draw lessons on how more mature democracies work. Here are some of the lessons that I would point out.

Lesson 1: Democracy is never perfect. Tuesdays election featured hereditary politicians, including one of the least experienced and least intelligent men ever to run for president. Both parties ran on centrist platforms, giving voters little real choice. The archaic system of Electoral College voting may actually overturn the popular vote. In sum, it looks like the United States presidential voting system needs an overhaul.

Lesson 2: The system works, not because of complicated laws, but because people are determined to make it work. No matter who is declared the winner, the other candidate will accept the result. There will be no rioting, rumors of coups, nor even a constitutional crisis.

Lesson 3: A free press can fairly inform the voters. No single source provided perfectly fair coverage, but with many sources available every voter had the information needed to decide between the candidates. Mudslinging was notable for its absence.

Lesson 4: "Administrative resources" did not determine the outcome. Two weeks ago, Alexander Rutskoi was thrown off the ballot for Kursk region governor by an 11th-hour court decision, citing Rutskois abuse of his administrative resources, including concerts and other election activities staged at government expense. Many people in turn saw the court decision as an abuse of Putins "administrative resources."

Everybody uses their administrative resources to influence elections, or at least so concluded SPS party leader Boris Nemtsov.

It doesnt have to be that way. If Floridas Governor Jeb Bush could have changed 5 percent of the votes in his state the amount that is usually thought that Russian governors control then his brother George would already be celebrating. Well get a good idea of Jebs influence when the recount is finished.

Putin stated on Wednesday that Alexander Veshnyakov, the chairman of the Central Elections Commission who was observing the U.S. election, would be able to tell American officials how to deal with the complications of the close vote. Putin was obviously joking. This country still has a long way to go before it reaches Americas level of democracy. But the more that Russians have the opportunity to see a democratic system in action, the sooner Russia will evolve one itself.

Peter Ekman is a financial educator based in Moscow. He welcomes e-mail.