The New York Times cannot wait until December to bury the upcoming election into the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. In today’s article, Clifford Levy announces that the parliamentarianism in Russia is already dead.
The reason? Levy is upset with the fact that the new Duma won’t feature two politicians Levy seems to consider absolutely indispensable for the future of Russia: Vladimir Ryzhkov (whom Levy calls "a fervent advocate for democracy") and Victor Pokhmelkin (a crusader "against corruption," according to Levy).
As is customary for a Russia "expert," Levy conveniently ignores facts that don’t prove his point. Granted, he’s right in saying that the domination of the pro-Putin United Russia party threatens to make the next Duma composed of a very few political parties. However, he does not bother to mention that the competition for the Duma seats is still quite remarkable: 14 political parties will be taking part in the election, and overall, more than 6,000 candidates will compete for 450 Duma seats, making it about 13 candidates per seat. The last time I checked in my home state of Massachusetts, there are no more than ten candidates — all of them being predictably Democrats — competing for ten congressional seats.
As is also customary for a Russia "expert," Levy fails to check out his basic facts. Sure, Victor Pokhmelkin won’t make it into the Duma, but not because "the Kremlin" doesn’t allow him to compete, as Levy wants us to believe. In fact, Pokhmelkin is running: as the number three on the federal list of a strange party, The Civil Force. Considered by many a Kremlin (!) project aimed at taking away votes from the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko, two liberal opposition parties (both are running in the election despite Levy’s apocalyptic predictions), The Civil Force has absolutely no chance to overcome the seven percent electoral threshold. Both Pokhmelkin and Levy could feel bad about the inevitable future outcome, but Pokhmelkin had made this choice himself.
As for Vladimir Ryzhkov, as I already wrote, he’s a nice guy, experienced parliamentarian, and a gifted politician. His major problem is that with President Putin’s sky-high ratings, Ryzhkov’s only message to the Russian people seems to be "Russia without Putin." Little wonder that no political party wanted to include Ryzhkov on their lists of candidates. Isn’t it a sign of a healthy democracy which the NYT rushes to bury today before it’s born in December?