Sen. Andrei Klimov on the distinguishing characteristics of American democracy with respect to Russian democracy.
Coincidence: At the moment the Russian federal election campaign officially began, news came from the United States that large sculptures of a nude Donald Trump – one of the two candidates running for president of the United States of America – were appearing in American cities. Supposedly, this is how his political opponents were choosing to settle scores with him.
Since 1990, this author has personally participated in many election marathons. I was elected as a parliamentarian seven times in a row. I have seen everything, especially in the turbulent 1990s, but I don’t recall ever having seen such mayhem. Perhaps our experience of political life under democratic conditions isn’t as great, with only a quarter of a century compared to two-and-a-half centuries in the United States. Or is it a question of the actual democratic mechanisms?
To wit, there are approximately four dozen federal political parties in the United States. We currently have more than 70. But according to a time-honored and strange tradition, only Democrats and Republicans participate in U.S. elections.* In today’s Russia, 20 political parties take part in pre-election activities. While the U.S. Congress currently houses two parties, our State Duma currently has four. These are the quantitative differences.
In 2016, the Russian parties turned their attention to the preliminary voting mechanism for selecting their candidates. There were a good many disputes, including disputes about the party leadership’s use of lobbying power. For the United States, the primaries have long been business as usual. That being said, for six months, the whole world marveled at how determined many Republican bureaucrats were to use every truth and untruth to exclude the most popular Republican, Trump, from the election. Thanks to leaks made to the mass media, it turned out that the Democrats had, on the contrary, violated all party ethics by literally pulling Hillary Clinton by her hair toward an “uncontested” victory in the preliminary delegate vote at the national convention.
By the way, after publicly falling flat on their faces, the supporters of the former U.S. president’s wife and the current candidate for the White House didn’t lose their bearings, writing it off as a clearly internal “Democratic” scandal. It was the Russians who were allegedly guilty. For instance, I received a call from a certain American journalist who, in our interview, asked me the same question for half an hour: Did Trump or his people request Sen. Klimov’s help in defeating the Democrats?
As for the United States, a joint survey conducted by The Washington Post and ABC showed that 58 percent of American voters want neither one candidate nor the other.
Now, on to the subject of election monitors. Both of our countries are members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and are required to implement its resolutions, except, while we invite OSCE monitors to our elections, the Americans have repeatedly chased them out of voting stations. How can there not be inspectors in the most democratic country in the universe?
Last of all, I don’t recall any Russian leaders or our parliament having counseled the United States (or anyone else) on how to conduct elections, whom to admit, whom to elect and how to acknowledge the results. However, our Western partners have practiced this throughout all the years of the Russian Federation’s existence.
I don’t know whom the American people will elect in November or how they will do it. That is their sovereign business. Russia will work with any U.S. president regardless of whether his or her naked statue has been displayed outside American malls. The thousand-year experience of Russian statehood and the presence of very different neighbors along the perimeter of our extensive borders have taught us a special kind of tolerance. In that sense, it is equally important for us to maintain normal relations with both our neighbor, the United States of America, which subscribes to the two-party system, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (which, by the way, has three official parties).
The new Russia is not concerned with changes in regimes or political systems. The only thing we don’t plan to go along with is a foreign attempt to control our motherland. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if is a man or a woman, a Republican or a Democrat, or a black, white or blue person who attempts to do this.
*Editor’s note: Parties such as the Libertarian Party or Green Party that have an independent state organization in a majority of the states are considered major parties, and they may offer candidates for national office.
The author is the deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on international affairs.
The author’s opinion may not represent the position of the editorial staff.