Running a democracy isn’t easy. But imagine how challenging it must be to imitate one! Sets must be constantly rearranged and political roles must be assigned. The lighting has to be perfect and everybody needs to know their lines. Most importantly, though, the script must be well thought out far into the future, because the performance has no end. The way in which Russia elects its president is an example of this form of simulated democracy. Just recently, the Central Election Commission excluded Alexei Navalny, the only opposition politician who had run a serious campaign, from running in this year’s election. The candidate, the commission noted, has a criminal record, which disqualifies him from challenging the incumbent, Vladimir Putin.
As is typical of imitated democracies, the decision to prohibit Navalny from running is formally correct. He does indeed have a criminal record. But the logic, in this case, is reversed: In order to prevent Navalny from running for office, he was convicted several years ago in a bizarre trial for alleged embezzlement, proceedings that were criticized by the European Court of Human Rights. Just as Russia has no separation of powers, it also lacks an independent judiciary — with the upshot being that Putin will once again run against handpicked opponents in March.
The exclusion of Navalny marks the end of an interesting experiment. Navalny’s daring plan was to act as a real politician in a simulated election campaign. Like a member of the audience who suddenly jumps onto the stage, he wanted to force his way into official Russian politics. He was the only one to run a campaign worthy of the name, with trips across the country filled with passionate appearances, a permanent staff and rallies. His calculation was that if the Kremlin were to exclude the only real challenger, it would expose the election charade as a fraud, a scenario the Russian leadership would surely like to avoid.
Full Article: Russia, Navalny and Imitated Democracy – SPIEGEL ONLINE.