West has ‘no lesson to give to Russia about democracy’ – former MEP

Students of the Georgy Sedov Institute of Water Transport prepare a voting station for the national election day. © Sergey Pivovarov
Russia’s electoral system isn’t perfect, but it’s improved a lot since the 2011 election, and now it’s more democratic than, for instance, in France, said former member of the French and European parliaments Yvan Blot. The West has no lessons for Russia, he added.

Sunday’s general election Russia saw people vote for members of the lower house, the State Duma and several regional heads.

With almost all the votes counted, the ruling United Russia party is likely to secure the majority of seats in the Duma. It's followed by the Russian Communist party (KPRF) and the Liberal Democrats (LDPR), who are neck and neck. Fair Russia has also made it to the lower house with about 6 percent of the votes.

The result of the vote didn’t come as any surprise. Various polls and analysts predicted United Russia was going to remain the majority party. However, Western media criticized the election dubbing it “a show” and “a farce” even before it started.

Yvan Blot, former member of the French and European Parliaments, says this election result reminded him of the French presidential elections when Charles de Gaulle “had 50 percent of the votes.”

“It is the same now in Russia with United Russia, Putin’s party. What strikes me is that all political parties in the majority and in the opposition are patriotic. It is not the case in France, I must admit,” he told RT.

Former French MP Blot, commenting on the matter said Western countries should mind their own election process.

For instance, in France, the system “is less democratic than the Russian one,” he said. He referred to the way Russian lawmakers are elected to the Duma: half of the MPs are elected from single-mandate districts (one candidate per district), the other half - from party candidate lists on a proportional basis.

“In France we have a more simple system: every candidate comes from a constituency. But constituencies were designed by the most powerful party some years ago. With the result of 1/3 of the votes the National Front has only two members of Parliament. Is that democratic? It is not democratic at all. It is the same for the extreme left. [It] has very few members of Parliament, but they have voices,” he said.

“Besides, candidates in France are selected in general by little committees of oligarchs within political parties. We have no primaries, except now in the Republican Party Presidential election. But in general it is not a tradition to have primaries,” Blot said.

Primaries had not been a common thing for Russia either until this year, when ahead of the September 18 parliamentary vote, United Russia held nationwide primaries.

The third “big problem” in France, according to Blot, is that opinions of political leaders differ from those of voters.

“For that reason people are very deceived by all political parties. In France the rate of trust for a political party is only 18 per cent of the people. I think we have no lesson to give to Russia about democracy. Russia is not perfect – perfection doesn’t exist in the world. But I think the system has much improved since some years and now it is more democratic than in France,” the former MP said.

Adam Garrie, author at The Duran says the Western media painted the Russian vote “as a show” because they “don’t want to admit that the democracy in Russia is indeed one of the most vibrant and, more importantly, diverse in the free world”.

“When you just listen to some of the many debates in the Duma, you’ve got a broader range of opinions than you’ve got in the British Parliament, in the US Congress, or most places in Europe,” he told RT.

In recent years, the Russian government has introduced a number of changes to make elections more representative. For instance, the threshold for parties to get into parliament was lowered to 5 percent and a prominent human rights activist, Ella Pamfilova was appointed to head the Central Election Commission.

Garrie explains Western media have an agenda, “and the agenda doesn’t rely on the facts”.

“The fact of the matter is that the Russian government has gone out of its way to make this one of the most widespread free and fair elections possible from opening polling stations in some of the most remotest parts of the world – to videotaping all the polling stations to catch any possible irregularities when and as they happen. This factual truth isn’t something that seems to match the Western narrative – that says the Russian electoral system is somehow backwards or undemocratic. Perhaps they are ashamed that the Russian system is slightly more democratic and certainly more ideologically and personally diverse than a lot of place in the so-called West,” he said. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.