Georgy Bovt, writing in the Moscow Times, explains how the Kremlin has utterly obliterated the last vestiges of democracy in Russia and rendered the country a nation of helpless, bleating sheep, just as in Soviet times. Welcome back to the USSR!
In the wake of protests in December and February, the authorities made concessions to the opposition by announcing a host of political reforms before the March presidential election. The law to ease the registration of new political parties, intended to liberalize the political process, was passed quickly. But every other amendment proposed by the opposition was ignored, including the two most important: the ability for parties to form coalitions prior to elections and the demand to lower the barrier for parties to gain seats in the State Duma. At present, that barrier stands at 5 percent, and voters who support the smaller parties risk not only having no representation in parliament, but also seeing their votes effectively awarded to the winning party. The result will be a major “Balkanization” process in which dozens of new parties are formed but are rendered useless.
Then there is the bill to return direct gubernatorial elections.