The Instigator
Farooq
Con (against)
Losing
12 Points
The Contender
Raisor
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points

Putin's Russia is not democratic

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/4/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,451 times Debate No: 1349
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (9)

 

Farooq

Con

First of I would like to point out that I am not really a Putin fan. Although lots of his economic polcies have helped his country retain some of its majesty he has many things wrong with him. For one his country's UN delegates have been supporting Iran and Sudan and put their own interest above human rights or international secuirty (though the CIA say that Iran's not as dangerous as was previosuly believed).

In addition his country still lacks basic freedoms (like press), but this does not mean it is not democratic. Most election observers agree that electoral fraud was minimal at worst and one can most certainly not refute that he has the support of the Russian populace behind him, with popularity ratings about double Bush's.

And isn't that the defintion of democracy? To have elections that accuratly point the people's choice of leadership? Certainly Russia's values are the same as free liberal-democratic states and their constutution differs from ours and they aren't really a free country but that does not mean they are not a democracy.
Raisor

Pro

To be a true democracy, it isn't enough to simply have elections for government officials. As wikipedia states, "a common feature of democracy as currently understood and practiced is competitive elections."
Elections in a true democracy must be competitive. That is to say, they must be fair and they must provide opportunity for competition to the ruling power. The alternative to a competitive election is a rigged election.
My opponent makes the mistake of assuming that the only way to rig an election is to physically tamper with ballots.
An election is rigged whenever the election is set up so as to favor a certain person or group of people. This can be done in a number of ways besides physically altering ballots or preventing opposition from voting. Any process that sets up the election so that one person or group has unfair advantage over the another is rigging and disqualifies a state from the qualification "democratic."
While my opponent may be correct that Putin has the support of the Russian populace, that does not indicate that the elections meet the criteria for a democracy. As McFaul and Petrov wrote in their article "What the Elections Tell Us," "it is hard to imagine any way in which Putin and his surrogates could have lost free and fair elections in 2003 or 2004… We can only speculate about the results of free and fair elections, however, because the actual elections in December 2003 and March 2004 took place in a context that did not offer a level playing field."
Competitive elections do not take place in Russia because of the following:
1) The national media is (forcibly) controlled by the state. This media is used to control information flow to the people regarding political matters.
"When Putin came to power, only three networks had the national reach to really count in politics—ORT, RTR, and NTV. . . Putin effectively acquired control of ORT, the channel with the biggest national audience… RTR was always fully state-owned, and so it was even easier to tame. Controlling the third channel, NTV, proved more difficult since its owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, decided to fight. But in the end, he too lost not only NTV but also the daily newspaper… When the fall parliamentary campaign started, the Kremlin de facto controlled all television networks with a national reach…"
"Heads of local state-owned television stations continue to follow political signals from regional executives, and most regional heads of administration stood firmly behind Putin in the last electoral cycle"
2) Those in the media who speak out against Putin or support opposition are suppressed because of the political threat they pose.
"Moreover, Putin has changed the atmosphere for doing journalistic work. When journalists have criticized his policies, such as the war in Chechnya or his handling the sinking of the submarine Kursk in 2000, he has called them traitors.7 His most vocal media critics have lost their jobs, have been harassed by the tax authorities or by sham lawsuits, or have been arrested. . . Freedom House downgraded Russia's media from Partly Free to Not Free. Reporters Without Borders. . ranked Russia 121st out of 139 countries assessed (just one ranking above Iran), making it one of the worst performers in the postcommunist world"
3) Issues of free press are directly related to a legitimate democracy. Government control of the media and suppression of dissent gives the ruling party a distinct and clear unfair advantage in elections.
4) Putin's government HAS directly intervened in regional election to protect Kremlin power.
"Regional leaders who have resisted Putin's authority have found elections rigged against them. In the last gubernatorial elections in the Kursk, Saratov, and Rostov oblasts, as well as in the presidential races in Chechnya and Ingushetiya, the removal of the strongest contenders ensured an outcome favorable to the Kremlin. As demonstrated most vividly in St. Petersburg in 2003, Moscow also has intervened in critical regional votes to provide incentives for inconvenient incumbents to step aside and allow pro-Kremlin candidates easy victories."
5) Along with other incentives, Kremlin intervention in regional matters coerced regional politicians to switch parties or engage in active support in accord with Putin's agenda on the national stage.
"This set of reforms regarding the distribution of power between Moscow and the regions had tremendous consequences for national elections in 2003 and 2004. Wielding carrots and sticks, the Kremlin eliminated the serious divisions among regional elites that had structured the main drama of the 1999 parliamentary elections. By the fall of 2003, almost all regional leaders were supporting Putin and United Russia. The regional strongmen who had created Fatherland-All Russia fours years earlier had become staunch United Russia supporters. An amazing thirty governors and presidents of republics appeared on United Russia's party list. These regional executives also wielded their local resources to support United Russia candidates in single-mandate district races. In many regions, especially in the republics, regional bosses still made sure that their candidates won these single-mandate seats. . .Pressure from the Kremlin on regional leaders to deliver a landslide victory in the single-mandate districts meant that opposition parties, including even the CPRF, had a difficult time winning seats. "
6) Putin's reforms on the involvement of economically powerful men in government gave the ruling party leverage to coerce oligarchs into loyalty to the Kremlin.
"Very early in his term, Putin made clear that he wanted new rules of the game for governing the interaction between the state and Russia's plutocrats: The oligarchs could no longer treat the state as simply another tool to be used for their personal enrichment. Instead, Putin implied that the oligarchs had to get out of politics altogether… This selective and arbitrary enforcement of the law (as well as certain violations of Khodorkovsky's constitutional rights as a defendant) sent a clear message to Russia's rich about the necessity of remaining absolutely loyal to the Kremlin. Those oligarchs . . . got the message. In the 2003 parliamentary campaign, they continued to contribute significant resources to political campaigns, but only as sanctioned by the Kremlin"
7) This use of government power to secure campaign funds and prevent the funding of political rivals is a clear instance of electoral rigging. The government stacked the deck against political opponents through various policies. This is tantamount to forcing candidates out of the election- an action that is clearly tampering with elections.
8) The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that local elections FAILED to meet requirements for DEMOCRATIC elections.
"Before the legislative balloting, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued [a] preliminary report on a Russian election, stressing that the run up to the State Duma elections
‘failed to meet many OSCE and Council of Europe commitments for democratic elections. In addition, important safeguards in domestic legislation were not enforced by the Russian authorities. This. . . calls into question Russia's fundamental willingness to meet European and international standards for democratic elections.'"
Conclusion:
Putin's government played an enormous role in the 2003/2004 elections. The way Putin utilized state resources and media control to influence the election gave him an enormous unfair advantage over political adversaries. In this way, Russia fails to hold competitive elections. Rather, its elections are highly influenced by the state in a manner that clearly favors the ruling party. In other words, they are rigged. By failing to hold competitive elections, Russia fails to qualify as a democracy.
Source: "What the Elections Tell Us" (Journal of Democracy Vol.15,3,2004)
Debate Round No. 1
Farooq

Con

Wow... you wrote a lot... I not sure if I should have made this a 3-rounder anymore... sigh... oh well

Despite your great mass of words many of your points overlap. One of your most common incorrect assertions is that liberty and democracy are the same thing. They are not.

"The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions which realizes the common good by making the people itself decide issues through the election of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will." (http://economics.about.com...)

Democracy is merely a system of government in which the people decide their rulers, and the covenent betweeen the leadership and the citizenry is renewed every few years or so. Russia certainly has passed for that, and there is not a doubt in anyone's mind that any election would show that United Russia has nothing but the utmost confidence of the vast majoirty of Russian centers. It is also well organized, not in any form of sketchy anarchy.

You however seem to beleive that elections must competitive for demcracy to be alive. This is untrue, my country during the 90's for example was dominated by vast Liberal governemnts because the right-wing parties were under no common front, thus ensuring a Liberal victory several times with no possible chance for any other party to form a government, yet no one challenges our coutry's allegiegance to democracy because although the elections were not compeititve, they, like Putin's were not rigged.

I am not challenging in anyway Freedom House's classification of Russia as a "Not Free" country becuase it isn't free. It is not a free countries, but still has free and relativily fair elections (though the last one some skepticism was suggested, the previous ones have been given good grades by observers). Our western countries are a different type of democracy, called "liberal-democracy" because it enshrines that things such as freedom of speech must be protected, but this is not a fact in Russia. Russia is what one calls an "Absolute Democracy" that is to say, one that listens to its citiznery no matter what, even it means deleting freedom of the press or abrdinging civl liberties. I for one prefer a liberal-democracy over majoratalism any day, but my personal views do not change the Russian constitution.

As for censoring the press, even Western democracies have resorted to that in some cases, particualry during war time (like WW2) and communist media outlets have been banned in my country on a few occasions. Just becuase it os wrong doesn't mean its not democratic.

Your turn Raisor.
Raisor

Pro

I will first refute the points you made in R2. You make three main points:

1)I do not claim that liberty and democracy are the same thing. I implicitly claim that the two are closely related, and that a true democracy is not possible without a certain degree of liberty. However, I do this through a very careful examination of how Russia's election were essentially rigged through infringements of liberty.
Democracy is not simply a form of government where people decide their rulers. It is necessary that people FREELY choose their leaders. If this were not the case, then elections where government scare people away from voting would be considered legit democratic elections.

2)You misunderstand what I mean by "competitive." You seem to believe that I mean an election where there is fierce competition between different alternatives. This is NOT what I mean. When I use the term "competitive" I essentially mean "fair." By "competitive," I merely mean that fair competition is POSSIBLE.

If competitive elections were not necessary for a legit democracy, then elections where the government removes opposition from the ballot would be considered legit. In this case, an election could be carried out and the government could abide by the results, but the outcome was predetermined and thus the election was not fair.

3) Distinction between "liberal democracy" and "absolute democracy" is not relevant to this debate. My arguments about freedoms of the press are not designed to show that Russia isn't a free country, they are designed to illustrate how Russia rigs elections.

Again, I am aware the Western countries have censored the press. Again, I will point out that I am only bringing up censorship insofar as it precludes the possibility for a fair election.

Now I will re-explain my previous points in order to try and present a clearer story about how Russia essentially rigs elections and is thus undemocratic:

1)Freedom of the Press
Putin's government controls most of the information the public gets regarding election campaigns. Those who are critical of his government or support opposition are silenced. This control of information gives Putin a clear unfair advantage in electoral campaigns. When a government utilizes its power to control the results of an election, it is rigging and it is undemocratic.

2)Putin's government tampers with regional elections. The Kremlin coerces politicians into switching party lines and pledging loyalty to Putin's government. Local politicians who are afraid of or were bought by the Kremlin then work to sway the voters in the way that Putin wants. This is undemocratic for the obvious reason that there is direct tampering with local elections and also because it is another example of how the Kremlin uses its resources to stack the deck against opposition. Suddenly the election has become an issue of who has the most power and the ability to force support. The opponent of the incumbent could never hope to match such power, and thus the election is unfair. If an election is unfair, it is not a democratic election.
To make a comparison, this would be like if a Democratic politician of the USA forced many Republican senators and governors to switch parties and then coerced them into campaigning and endorsing for him. (Note: The country and parties were simply examples and aren't representative of any political statement)

3) Putin used reforms and arbitrary enforcement of the law to gain support from oligarchs and the economic elite. This amounts to using government power to secure campaign financing. Even worse, Putin used his power to BLOCK financing for the opposition. This is an example of an institutionalized inequity in the electoral system. The state literally acted to ensure that the opposition would not be able to secure funds for campaigning. This action is essentially the same as forcing an opposition candidate out of the race and is another example of Putin's government rigging the election.

4) Russian elections have failed to meet OSCE criteria for democratic elections. This is an example of an international agency declaring that Russia IS NOT DEMOCRATIC. This is an important piece of evidence in this debate as it indicates that the global community does not feel that Russia conducts its elections in a democratic manner. My opponent has not brought forth any evidence illustrating that Russia's elections are fair enough to be considered democratic.

Finally, I would like to restate my claim that simply having elections is not enough for a state to be considered democratic. This is why authoritarian states that use violent tactics to prevent opposition from voting and forcibly prevent opposition from getting on the ballot are not considered democracies. The signature of a democracy is a COMPETITIVE ELECTION, which is to say an election that allows for fair competition. Russia's elections are NOT fair; the government sets them up so that the opposition to the incumbent is at an inherent disadvantage. The government actively works to construct a system where it has control over the results of the election. For this reason, Putin's Russia is NOT democratic.
Debate Round No. 2
Farooq

Con

"Putin's government tampers with regional elections. The Kremlin coerces politicians into switching party lines and pledging loyalty to Putin's government. Local politicians who are afraid of or were bought by the Kremlin then work to sway the voters in the way that Putin wants."

This is not an example of an undemocratic state, it is merely an example of elements of coruption that go on in political fields, although a deal more potently in in the Russian Federation than in other countries.

"Putin used reforms and arbitrary enforcement of the law to gain support from oligarchs and the economic elite. This amounts to using government power to secure campaign financing."

A poltical party letting its campaign finace interests influence the way it governs? Could it be? Are you saying this problem is void in other parts of the liberal-democratic world? Its not like Big Oil or the major Pharmatceticals have any influce in Washington...

Your assertions that the election observers didn't bleive it to be an actual democratic contest is one of interest, but subjective. As the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated "the elections were generally well administrated and reflected the consistently high public approval rating of the incumbent president" and "The Presidential Election Law and the Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights Law provided the legal framework for the presidential elections, laying down conditions for the transparency in the organisation and conduct of the election." Another group, PACE backed up the Council's assertions with this relase "credit should be given to the election administration which ensured security and professional conduct of the voting process".

Media was not completly restricted to the opposition, although the Kremlin did have a little extra time putting their own views through state-subtized advertising. But Canadian taxpayers paid for anti-sepratist rallies durign the 1995 referendum and Americans launch many PSAs relating to public, interest, and it is not unknown for a partisna slap to come out occasionally.
Raisor

Pro

My response to your points:

"This is not an example of an undemocratic state, it is merely an example of elements of coruption that go on in political fields, although a deal more potently in in the Russian Federation than in other countries."

Yes, it is an example of corruption, but with relation to my argument it is more than that. This particular corruption affects the election in such a way that it is inherently biased. This is rigging. Furthermore, governmental tampering with regional elections IS an example of an undemocratic state.

"A poltical party letting its campaign finace interests influence the way it governs? Could it be? Are you saying this problem is void in other parts of the liberal-democratic world? Its not like Big Oil or the major Pharmatceticals have any influce in Washington..."

First, the way Western countries operate has no bearing on this debate; this debate is solely about whether or not Putin's Russia is democratic. Anyways, the issue is not that campaign finance interests influence the way a government operates, but that the government coerced funds and BLOCKED funds from opponents. This isn't a matter of politics being influenced by money, this is an instance of the government preventing the opposition from acquiring finances through force. This is a blatant example of rigging an election! Imaging if the US IRS started cracking down on any group that helped financed an opposition candidate. People would be furious and would rightly claim that the government was setting up an unfair election.

All your evidence from international agencies just refer to the direct voting process. My argument is that you can rig an election without altering the voting process. Indeed, the most effective and intelligent way to rig an election would be to do it in this way.

"Media was not completly restricted to the opposition, although the Kremlin did have a little extra time putting their own views through state-subtized advertising. But Canadian taxpayers paid for anti-sepratist rallies durign the 1995 referendum and Americans launch many PSAs relating to public, interest, and it is not unknown for a partisna slap to come out occasionally."

Once again, your comments on Western politics are irrelevant.

You already conceded that Russia does not have a free press. This is a bit of a change of stance on your part. Anyways, Russian control of the media was more than "a little extra time putting their own views through." Putin's government harassed and shut down those who supported opposition or were critical of his party. Putin directly controlled all the national news agencies. Putin essentially worked to silence the opposition, to make the opposition an invisible party. This is more than an infringement of freedom of speech, it puts the opposition at a distinct and unfair disadvantage. It is an instance of the government working to control the election. The government acted on a policy which directly made it more difficult for its opposition to win the election. This is rigging.

There are more ways to rig an election than simply tampering with the physical votes. Putin is not a dumb man; he knows this. I know that he knows this because he did it. Putin rigged the election by using government power to suppress dissent and make his opposition invisible. Putin rigged the election by using government power to coerce finances and block campaign funds from opposition. Putin rigged the election by tampering with local politics and forcing support from local politicians, forcing them to switch party lines and campaign for politicians of Putin's choosing and against Putin's opposition. Putin rigged the election by creating a political climate that was impossible for opposition to survive in. Rigged elections are not democratic elections. Putin's Russia is not democratic.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Raisor 9 years ago
Raisor
I used wikipedia for ONE definition.

The rest of my citations came from an academic journal.

Wikipedia is usually cited and studies have shown that it is comparable to encyclopedia brittanica. I wouldnt consider it appropriate for use in a scholarly context, but in a debate such as this it is entirely appropriate.

"Find credible sources"? Apparently the Journal of Democracy isnt credible enough? Maybe you didnt actually read the debate.
Posted by sluggerjal 9 years ago
sluggerjal
how crazy are you to post wikipedia as a source. Anyone can change anything in wikipedia. You have some good ideas but find credible sources. Wikipedia is simply not one.
Posted by Farooq 9 years ago
Farooq
Trudeau, Bush, and Putin are not the only polticians in the world (fortunatly)
Posted by Raisor 9 years ago
Raisor
Wow, I was so pressed for space. I had to take out the spacing to make it fit, now it doesnt look as orderly...
Posted by solo 9 years ago
solo
By the way... do you like any politicians? HA!
Posted by solo 9 years ago
solo
Faroog, you're a crack up and definitely a fast favorite of mine, here on the site. I look forward to watching this debate unfold. Good luck!
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