Gorbachev: Democracy in Russia ‘a mockery’

The last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday launched a bitter attack on the state of democracy in Russia, saying elections had turned into a mockery and the whole system was faulty.

Gorbachev’s comments came after the ruling United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin swept this month’s local polls, prompting allegations of fraud and a rare walkout of Parliament by three opposition parties.

”In the eyes of everyone, elections have turned into a mockery of the people and people have great distrust over how their votes are used,” Gorbachev told the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which he part owns, in an interview.

He said the walkout by the Communist, Liberal Democratic and Just Russia parties — all seen to a greater or lesser extent as close to the Kremlin — showed that ”trust in elections had gone”.

The victory in local elections further deepened the grip on power of United Russia, which holds a majority of 315 out of 450 seats in the lower house of Parliament, the State Duma.

In elections held in 75 regions on October 11, United Russia won nearly 80% of the open seats, election officials said.

Gorbachev said apathy and distrust of Russia’s electoral system was such that people would simply stop going to the polls.

”What is democracy when people don’t take part in it?” he asked.

”The electoral system has been utterly maimed. We need an alternative. The press and civil groups need to take on themselves the initiative for new election legislation.”

”Counting on the Duma is pointless,” he added, in a bitter swipe at Russia’s notoriously supine Parliament.

Gorbachev’s cautious reform policies as Soviet leader are credited with causing the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe from 1989 and the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He has since portrayed himself has a champion of democracy in the country although until recently he was careful to avoid explicit criticism of Russia’s new rulers.

Putin, president from 2000 to 2008, is the leader of United Russia although curiously he is not a card-carrying member of the party. — AFP



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