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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Turning the Clock Back On Elective Democracy

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The State Duma election campaign will kick off officially on Saturday, according to the head of the Central Elections Commission. The election -- already known as the "foregone election" -- will be held on Dec. 2. It has been noted that during this campaign, safeguards will be put in place to prevent a number of fraudulent practices typically used to manipulate election results. But why use a backhanded approach when, thanks to a single sleight of hand, the results are already known with a fair degree of certainty in advance?

Elective democracy in Russia was born out of the overwhelming aspiration for authority held by one man: former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The idea of holding free and competitive elections was first introduced almost 20 years ago, in 1988 at the 19th Communist Party Conference. It was dictated in many respects by the desire of the general secretary to maintain a hold over his authority.

Gorbachev changed the political system and altered the Communist Party. It was necessary for Gorbachev to take the people as his allies to survive. This meant sharing his authority with the people and giving them a free vote. Thus, Gorbachev began his political reforms by spearheading the process himself.

Gorbachev hit the nail on the head. Giving true authority and power to the soviets, the legislative branch of power, became an idea that literally took hold of the masses.

But it was the Communist Party that ruined elective democracy when, during the first election of 1989, the secretaries of the regional and district committees began competing between themselves as if they belonged to different parties.

What occurred was not simply a swapping of one government institution for another. Elective democracy was only the first fracture in the Soviet dam. After the congresses and free elections, the dam burst wide open with the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, the ability to form many new movements and groups without the government's approval, the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the repeal of the infamous Article 6 of the Constitution, which placed limits on the political rights of Soviet citizens and declared that the Communist Party was the "leading and guiding force of the Soviet society," and on and on.

This is how the history of Russia's procedural elective democracy began. But it has now been replaced by a manipulative democratic process. Today's political machine has disrupted free self-expression, thereby making the authorities less representative of the people and the government less legitimate.

Andrei Kolesnikov is the deputy editor of The New Times. This comment appeared in Vedomosti.