A Level Politics

Improving your grade

What is a liberal democracy? Not Russia!

Posted by Matt Walker on March 6, 2012

Right at the beginning of the AS course we discussed democracy, and asked the question: ‘Is Britain a liberal democracy?’. To explore this we need a benchmark, some definition of ‘liberal democracy’ which British democracy can be compared to. We would expect a liberal democracy to have the following features:

  • government accountable to the people.
  • competitive, unpredictable and fair elections.
  • peaceful transference of power from one group to another, with the losers accepting defeat.
  • free flow of information, with regulated media to ensure fairness of political coverage.
  • protection of rights and civil  liberties.

It is worth you pondering why all of these things are important, and it might help you to observe what is happening in Russia. Vladamir Putin has just been elected president. He served two terms of office from 1999 to 2008, but stepped down because the Russian constitution states that a president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms of office. Putin could now serve another two terms, lasting 6 years each as the length term has recently been raised.

Aside from the issue of whether Putin actually controlled Russia anyway during the past 4 years (as prime minister), there has been much criticism of this latest Russian presidential election. Election monitors have said that the vote was skewed in favour of Putin. There has been accusations of vote-rigging, with video footage of election officials stuffing ballot boxes with forged voting slips, as well as reports of people being bussed around more than one voting station to cast multiple votes for Putin. The Russian media is also biased in favour of Putin, with Russian state television supporting him. And furthermore, if we look at Putin’s presidential rivals, it is hard to contend that this was a competitive election.

The result of this election was predictable, and not particularly well run legally. The lack of media transparency as well as the number of arrests of protesters since the election, would make it very difficult for us to describe Russia as a liberal democracy!

See also David Miliband’s views on this.

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