Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, June 08, 2012

Political competition

In the Russian political culture there has never been public competition between political ideas or groups. Is there any reason to expect things will be different in the 21st century?

Russian Lawmakers Take Steps to Impose Steep Fines on Demonstrators
Russia’s lower and upper houses of Parliament approved a draft law on Wednesday imposing steep fines on people who organize or take part in unsanctioned meetings, apparently in an attempt to bring down the curtain on the large antigovernment street protests that began six months ago.

If approved by President Vladimir V. Putin, the draft law will increase existing fines… [for] individuals up to $9,000 and organizations up to $30,000 for taking part in a demonstration that harms people or property.

Such fines would be devastating to most Russians, who earn an average yearly salary of $8,500…

On Monday, when Mr. Putin was asked about punitive measures against protest leaders that occurred during a summit meeting with the European Union, he said Russia was not doing anything that was not common practice in the West.

“As far as I know, at present they are all free, and they are apparently preparing for new protest actions,” he said. “That’s normal. But the one thing we should do is to bring our legislation into line with the norms of European law, which is in place in many European countries to regulate similar actions, and which are obviously democratic, but at the same time create a certain regime for carrying out mass actions.”…

Maria Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said she did not expect the new fines to be imposed broadly. But the threat of prosecution will hang over all future gatherings, dissuading masses of newly active protesters, like students and office workers.

“My sense is this government will stop short of a head-on crackdown across the board,” she said. “This is not Putin’s style. His intention should not be to intimidate the whole population, but to divide them, and isolate the group that is defiant and most active, and send a message to others who are not so committed that they had better not participate.”

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