Medvedev’s Take on Democracy

September 30, 2011

After watching an interview with Medvedev on national television, I just had to write a new blog post.

And now for the good stuff – the political commentary I promised. If you haven’t heard, Putin announced last Saturday that he will become the next president, and Medvedev will hold the post of prime minister. Oops – technically, last Saturday, the United Russia (Единая Россия) Party announced that it would be endorsing Putin as president and Medvedev as PM in the upcoming elections. (Elections for the Duma are in early December, for president, we have to wait until January of next year). Or at least, that was the line Medvedev just tried to sell the country in an interview on national television. When asked by one of the three moderators/question-givers, “What’s the point of having elections at all if everything’s already decided?” Medevdev responded that, no things weren’t “already decided,” but simply his party had announced which candidates they would be endorsing. Hint, Medvedev – when Russia has in effect only one party, its “recommendations” count for kind of a lot. Medvedev went on to say that only Russian citizens held the ability to elect their leaders, and that (I quote) “Вот, это демократия.” (And there – that’s democracy). Well, that’s not the democracy I learned about in middle school, high school, and college civics/political science classes. What was interesting to me was that most Russians I’ve talked with aren’t talking about the big news of Putin’s big announcement. No one is really surprised.

When asked about some bureaucratic hiccups his administration has been having, Medvedev also stated that such problems should not occur, because everyone is there to carry out the president’s agenda. Well, I might need to read the Russian Constitution again, but theoretically in any democracy there is that fun little checks and balances trick – i.e., the entire government does not exist to carry out what Putin wants. But, as my professor stated in my Russian foreign policy class, what is legally supposed to happen (what’s written in the Constitution) and what occurs in practice are rarely the same. Sadly, I feel obliged to add, that after watching the partisan gridlock in the US, the whole one part accomplishing reforms and being effective has its appeal. Viable third party, please? (And a whole bout of election reform…but that’s another story).

The professor and foreign policy class are amazing – it’s always a good feeling when I leave a class not having looked at my watch once, and feeling like a child who just left a candy shop with a bag of chocolates. (Or, honestly, how I feel when I leave a bakery with some delicious творог-filled pastry). Still having too many ideas of what I would like to be able to do with a poli sci major, it’s reassuring to remember how much I honestly enjoy learning and talking about politics and foreign relations. I was literally giddy discussing Russia’s negotiations with Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union, in order to secure the nuclear technology located on what had just become Ukrainian territory. Fun fact of the day: our WMDs in Russian is ОМУ (OMU).

Lovely plans for the weekend include avant gard (it sounds less pretentious in Russian) Russian art and then coffee with a friend from Middlebury Language School, followed by a hunt for Soviet posters at the market…



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