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Dial D for Democracy: How Russia is far more democratic than many realise

Russia is actually becoming a more democratic society than is true of many states in the West.

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Democracy is to a politically curious man or woman what sex is to a young adolescent. They have all heard the word, they are intrigued by the concept, but only have a cursory idea of what it actually is.  The latter is generally resolved through a natural process of biological and psycho-sexual maturity.

The former is only solved through education, no matter how old the particular student is. I’d like to explore some of the many manifestations of democracy throughout the world,  paying close attention to the modern democratic process in the Russian Federation, a country which is vastly more democratic than many have been led to believe it is.

What is Democracy?

The English word democracy is derived from the ancient Greek word demokratia, itself a word which combined demos (the populace/people) with kratos (rule/strength). At the time this term came about there was no unified Hellenic state but rather multiple city states amongst the Hellenic peoples. Some, though not all were considered democracies, Athens being the most powerful and hence the best remembered. 

Ancient Athens pioneered something called direct democracy whereby citizens actively participate in the construction, amendment and implementation of laws. It wasn’t always like that, the classical Athenian democracy only developed under the reforms of Solon who took power away from the ancient council of elders, the Areopagus and placed power in the Ecclesia, a popular council open to all male Athenian citizens, though women and non-citizens living in Athens were excluded.

Before moving on to more contemporary variants of democracy, it is necessary to clarify some terms.

Direct Democracy: The full participation of citizens in the making, amending and enforcing of laws. In such a system there are no professional politicians.

Suffrage: This simply means the right to vote. It does not mean one has the right to make law, overturn law and crucially it does not mean democracy. One can have suffrage in a non-democratic fashion (when one votes in a non-binding referendum for example).

Universal Suffrage: Many societies throughout history have allowed certain people to vote although the idea that all citizens have an automatic right to vote is historically speaking, a rather recent phenomenon.  Certain qualifications for the eligibility to vote have traditionally applied, the most common being, wealth, property ownership, one’s sex and in more limited cases education and aptitude. Universal Suffrage is the idea that all citizens or in some cases all residents of a state should have the unqualified right to vote.

Petition: Prior to the 18th and 19th centuries, Petition was the most sacred and common expression of democracy. Although petitions to the throne existed in Imperial China, the most well known example is that of England and later all of Britain. The process was affirmed in the Magna Carta of 1215. A petition is when a subject, citizen or group thereof write their grievance to the sovereign and propose how the issue ought to be redressed.    

Representative democracy (sometimes known as Parliamentary Democracy): This is the most common form of democracy in the world today. It involves citizens using their right to the franchise (suffrage) to elected representatives to a legislative body (or bodies).

Referendum: A referendum is a tool of direct democracy. Here those with the right to vote get to decide on pieces of legislation irrespective of the wishes of professional politicians. There is however a caveat to this, some countries have non-binding referenda, whereby those with the right to vote can express their views but these views can be overruled by professional politicians or in some cases judges.

Initiatives: In an initiative, a group of citizens propose a piece of legislation and if it meets certain qualifications (the amount of citizens proposing the legislation, constitutionality etc) it will then be put to all voters in a referendum.

Demonstration: The right to demonstrate is a legal right of citizens to publically assemble, allowing their views to be unmistakably head by a state’s leadership. It is the vocal version of a petition in many ways, though in most cases doesn’t carry the same legal standing.

Social Contract/Will of the People: This is the idea that there is an uncodified law demanding that the leaders of government have a duty to represent the will, desires and needs of the populace without necessitating any form of suffrage. This harkens to the Platonic/Socratic idea of ‘philosopher kings’, a group of esteemed individuals who earn their right to rule through intellect and merit rather than through direct elections or approval.   

Peace: Peace is the antithesis of war and obviously war the antithesis of peace. In no dictionary or language is democracy the antithesis of war. The concepts are not intellectually related. Whether democracy helps create peace is up for debate. I’ll simply mention some popular theories. Plato would say democracy is more likely to lead to war due to the ‘mob mentality’ he associated with it and his fear of demagoguery whipping up a population against a foreign power. Two popular counter arguments state that if people feel they have a direct say in government they will not resort to civil war. Also, if people have the right to participate in either a demonstration, petition or initiate against a government’s desire to go to war, that it may be effective. Of course, the 1 million people demonstrating against Tony Blair and his government’s desire to invade Iraq in 2003 proved ineffective.

So which modern state is the most democratic? That’s an easy one, Switzerland. Switzerland employs constitutional initiatives, popular referenda and indeed demands referenda on the most crucial matters of government. Switzerland’s form of government is the closet of any to a direct democracy.  I did say I would talk about Russia and I will. Russia is much less democratic than Switzerland, but it is quite a bit more democratic than Britain, The United States, Germany, France, Canada and Poland (to name but a few).

The Political System in Russia

The Russian Federation is a representative democracy in which all male and female citizens of adult age cast votes for a political party to represent them according to the proportional representation system of elections which is used throughout much of Europe. In Britain members of the Green Party, Liberal Democratic Party and UKIP have often proposed the implementation of proportional representation, as they feel the so-called ‘first past the post’ system in modern Britain is insufficiently democratic.

The proper way to measure the level of democracy in a representative democracy like Russia’s or for that matter like Britain’s or America’s is by analysing the diversity of opinion amongst the parties which people have elected to a legislative body. In this respect Russia is a clear winner. In what other democratic legislature can one find a party which is the successor to the once most powerful Communist Party in the world and on the other hand a party whose leader has called Lenin a terrorist and has publicly proscribed Communism in the Council of Europe?  It’s hard to frankly compete with such levels of political diversity. In order to better understand this, it is necessary to catalogue the four major parties of Russian politics beginning with the oldest.

Political Parties in Russia

The Communist Party of The Russian Federation: This is the successor party to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and has traditionally polled a strong second in most elections to the Duma as well as presidential elections. This is a traditional Marxist-Leninist party which under the lengthy leadership of  Gennady Zyuganov has repudiated both the de-Stalinisation of Khrushchev as well as the reforms of Gorbachev. Whilst strictly an atheistic party as the CPSU always had been, Zyuganov offers a conciliatory approach to religion constituting a divergence from early Stalinist views on religion.

The LDPR (formerly Liberal Democratic Party of Russia): This was the second officially registered party in the Soviet Union. Founded and still led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the party places a great deal of emphasis on Russia’s historical role in geo-politics as well as traditional Russian culture. Whilst often described as right-wing or even far-right, the domestic policies of the LDPR tend to be a mix of market capitalism and state regulation with an emphasis on the need for cooperation between free individuals and the need of government to facilitate industrial, agricultural and infrastructural development. In terms of overarching ideology it is stridently anti-fascist and anti-nationalist, whilst embracing a uniquely Russian sense of conservatism.  Zhirinovsky himself is a professional historian and a multi-lingual expert in world affairs. Known for a flamboyant and often adversarial rhetoric, his speeches on the importance of foreign affairs in the daily lives of individuals are an instructive viewing.

United Russia: Founded in 2001, United Russia remains the most powerful and politically active party in Russia. Whilst since the 2012 Presidential Election, Vladimir Putin hasn’t been an official member of the party, United Russia openly endorses Putin and is currently chaired by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The party offers generally centrist policies but on the whole promotes the free market with some mixed economic elements. In foreign affairs United Russia is fully aligned with official Presidential policy.

A Just Russia: Led by Sergey Mironov, A Just Russia is the newest of Russia’s major parties. It is a social democratic party which campaigns on increased social welfare programmes, better treatment of pensioners and has been highly critical of the internal workings of United Russia, presenting itself as a more honest party. Mironov has campaigned for the votes of both United Russia supporters as well as those who traditionally vote Communist, promising the social interventions Communist favour with a more centrist and ‘modern’ approach that tends to appeal to United Russia voters. Although sprung from disorganised beginnings, it is now the third largest party in the State Duma.

Russia’s Duma is indeed diverse, far more so than those challenging Russia’s democratic credentials.

Comparing Democracy: Russia and the West

How could Russia improve its democracy? I would say the same way the United States could do, by allowing for referenda and initiatives at a national level. Apart from that, Russia’s election system is according to all international observers, free and fair, its parties represent diverse views and Russia’s president has a far higher popularity rating amongst his people than his equivalents in most representative democracies.

So if Russia is more rather than less democratic than many of its neighbours let alone its international detractors, why do many in Europe and North America not understand this? For this one must turn to the nature of the media. I would say Russian media offer a much wider breadth of debate than say the BBC or New York Times.

Take for example the recent events in Turkey. The Russian media have published and aired many alternative views, some anti-Ergodan and some pro with many not even willing to take a side at this early stage in what promises to be a season of political turmoil in Turkey.

By contrast, when Russian politics are discussed in western media it is almost always negative or defamatory. Parts of the western media remind me of something else Switzerland is famous for…not its admirable democracy but something filled with holes and when left out in the open for too long, it begins to stink

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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