None of the Above: Thoughts on Two Elections

Citizens of Russia and Canada go to the polls over the next few days to elect new parliaments – the Duma in Russia’s case, the House of Commons in that of Canada. It’s fair to say that neither is generating a lot of international excitement. In Russia’s case, because the result is (within certain boundaries) a foregone conclusion; and in Canada’s case because nobody cares.

Insofar as the Canadian press is covering the Russian election, it’s to portray it as fundamentally flawed, if not downright corrupt – a pretence at democracy rather than the real thing. Typical is the latest by the CBC’s new Moscow correspondent Briar Stewart, which starts off by quoting the campaign manager of the liberal Yabloko party in Krasnodar, saying that, “the State Duma election is the most terrible election I have seen since my birth.” The rest of the article then hammers home the point in case any readers hadn’t got it already.

There’s an element of truth to the complaints about the Russian elections, although it’s worth noting that the authorities’ manipulation of the system occurs primarily before votes are cast rather than after. That’s to say that the ‘managed’ party of ‘managed democracy’ mainly involves making life difficult for opposition candidates, limiting their access to the media, and things like that, rather than practices like ballot stuffing or falsifying the count (not to say that these practices don’t happen, but the general feeling is that the authorities prefer to limit them so as to avoid ridiculous results that lack legitimacy).

Nevertheless, although the playing field is far from a level one, when Russian voters head into the booths to cast their ballots, they have quite a lot of choice.

It’s reckoned that four or five parties will gain seats in the Duma via the proportional representation system that assigns half the total to those parties that win over 5% (the other half are chosen by first-past-the-post constituency elections). Most of these likely winners fall, I would say, in the left-conservative bracket, but there’s a lot of variation – from the hard left Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), through the also fairly left wing Just Russia party, the centrist United Russia, the centre-right New People (the least likely to pass the 5% hurdle), and the nationalist LDPR.

If those aren’t to your liking, there’s another 9 parties on the ballot papers. Most are no-hopers, though one or two might win a constituency here or there. For instance, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that the CPRF has sold out communism, you can vote for the more hardcore Communists of Russia. Or, likewise, if you think that the LDPR are a bunch of softies and you want tougher action on issues like immigration, you can throw your support behind Rodina. Or, if you’re liberally-inclined and think that New People are Kremlin stooges, you can put your cross next to the name of Yabloko (also Kremlin stooges according to the bizarre logic of the Navalnyites) or the more free market-inclined Party of Growth.

In other words, despite all the manipulations of the authorities, even if the final result is not in doubt (United Russia will win a majority), once you’re in voting booth ready to cast your secret ballot you actually have a lot of options open to you.

Now, let’s look at Canada.

Outside of Quebec (where you also have the separatist Bloc Quebecois), there’s only three options if you want to vote for somebody who win will a seat: Liberal, Conservative, and NDP (Green might pick up one seat, but overall are somewhere around 3% in the polls). The only other party likely to get a reasonable number of votes is the People’s Party of Canada, which is enjoying a surge (6-7%), primarily, it seems, by appealing to anti-vaxxers. But it has no chance of winning any seats and is thus a wasted vote except as a protest.

In other words, in real terms you have a choice of three parties. Let’s see what distinguishes them. As far as I can see, their platforms run roughly as follows:

Party A: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend. Party B: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend, and spend! Party C: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend, and spend some more!

Party A: Here’s the list of interest groups I want to throw money at. Party B: Here’s my list. Look it’s even longer. Party C: Hah, you think your list is long – look at mine!

Party A: Woke is good. Party B: Woke is extra good. Party C: Woke is extra, extra good.

Party A: Russia is evil. Party B: Russia is very evil. Party C: Russia is very super evil.

Party A: We’ll be tough on China. Party B: We’ll be extra tough on China. Party C: We’ll be extra, mega tough on China. (Of course, in practice, none of them will!)

By now you get the point. It doesn’t really matter who you vote for, you end up with pretty much the same thing. That’s not to say that there are no differences, but they’re not on fundamentals. Basically, it’s three variations of a theme.

So there you have it. In one country, you have lots of choice, but the system’s fixed to make sure the same guys always win. In the other, it’s a fair fight – anyone can win – it just doesn’t matter who does – they’re all the same. You might say that one is rigged at the micro level, while the other is rigged at the macro level.

Which is better? I’ll leave it to you to decide. Meanwhile, I have the difficult decision as to whether Party A, Party B, or Party C is more worthy of my vote on Monday. What a choice!

17 thoughts on “None of the Above: Thoughts on Two Elections”

    1. Don’t get me wrong. There’s still lots of good reasons for wanting free and fair elections, even if it’s a choice between variations of the same. They keep politicians on their toes, ensures a regular turnover of those at the top, so preventing them from becoming too corrupt, keeps elites happy that their bunch will get their turn next and so weakens incentives to disrupt, adds legitimacy to the system and so assists social stability, increases respect for law etc. So generally, a lot of benefits.

      Just none of the parties come even close to representing my views.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Like the Western mass media coverage.

        Like

      2. I don’t really know what’s happening in Canada nowadays. Apart from woke-unwoke and geopolitics, do ordinary people seem content enough? Jobs, wages, children better off than their parents, all that stuff? They used to seem happy, when I was there, a couple of decades ago.

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  1. “It doesn’t really matter who you vote for, you end up with pretty much the same thing. That’s not to say that there are no differences, but they’re not on fundamentals. Basically, it’s three variations of a theme.”

    Wallahi, you’ve convinced me, maestro! Verily, you have a scholar’s mind, to proof so masterfully, how western democracy is kufr. Always remember:

    Elections are haram!
    In voting booth sits Shaitan!

    – Niqud ad-Din al-Lytteni.

    Like

      1. Ditto the woman who ran, whose support base includes some saying 80% went her way.

        Likewise with what we’re hearing about Belarus. Example:

        https://nationalinterest.org/feature/belarus-drifting-back-russia-193891

        Excerpt –

        “Decades-long Russian attempts to reduce the use of the Belarusian language and promote Russian instead have been crucial to breaking down the barriers between their national identities. In 1939, for example, over eighty percent of Belarusians spoke Belarusian at home. By 1989 that had fallen to sixty-five and today, roughly seventy percent of Belarusians speak Russian at home.”

        Note that the National Interest piece text hyperlinks to a long winded Franak Viacorka screed on the aforementioned 80% claim in 1939.

        That reference is Belarusian svido (short for svidomite – a term used to disparagingly describe Ukrainian nationalists with an anti-Russian bent)

        Couldn’t find anything in it supporting the 1939 claim. Why didn’t the National Interest author provide a more direct reference? And just who TF is that National Interest author and the venue he’s involved with as described in his short bio at the end of the article.

        Viacork’s academia.edu linked paper disingenuously says that the Greek Catholic faith once dominated Belarus without noting that the Orthodox Church had done so prior – only to be suppressed in a way that propped the Greek Catholic denomination.

        Viacorka cites a poll saying that Belarusians identify more with the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (PLC) than the USSR. Nothing about comparing Belarusian attitudes on the Russian Empire and PLC. The Russian Empire is negatively depicted unlike the PLC.

        Quite suspect. Overall, Belarusians come across as being more pro-Russian than pro-Polish, or pro-Lithuanian.

        Like

      2. In the GDR regularly above 99% voted. Some no doubt gave their votes to the one or the other bloc parties. Fipple flutes, or Blockflöten, as my friends used to call them. Irreverently. 😉

        One of the questions during my recent election poll was, would I object to lower the age allowing citizen to vote to 16 years. Why should I?

        Now, curiously enough, I just stumbled across a poll on potential voters of that age.* The basic outcome concerning East vs West was this: If the youngsters had that chance in my district, I might have a chance to not lose my first vote. Concerning the respective candidate or future, no doubt party aligned parliamentarian, that is. Otherwise yes, there was another question, that surfaced in my recent poll, that has been on my mind looking into candidates and election history concerning my first, or first-past-the-post vote 😉

        Otherwise, difficult decision.

        The second vote is a pure party vote, deciding party representation in the future parliament.

        * in two Eastern countries those potential voters would vote for the AfD, the extreme free market, anti-liberal right. Which no doubt would still love to see a Dexit, simply reduced the urgency, meaning they have moderated their views on that topic slightly. From their basic anti-elite position they are also no doubt, seemingly for now, are pro Russia. Otherwise, they want to return to a “German normalcy” with love of the fatherland and its traditions.

        There was this very funny episode recently. A kid reporter, younger than the juveniles polled above, asked a party representative: Given that German kids had to learn more German poems, what was his favorite one? The guy struggled.

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      3. in two Eastern countries those potential voters would vote for the AfD, the extreme free market, anti-liberal right.

        The poll checked second vote or party vote only.

        Like

  2. And then there’s Germany, which could actually get interesting. Maybe.

    Scary, though, that today the post-religious west has cast its impulse for Jesuitical reverence into such a thin interpretation of democracy, the idea that it is just elections, not popular political-economic literacy, diverse control of Overton-window controlling media, proper civics education, reasonable wealth distribution…

    after the big liberal revolutions, the liberals and the democrats were two different camps of different classes vying to chart the course — liberal democracy is a pale compromise, or just one in sheep’s clothing.

    meanwhile, we spend most of our lives in utter top-down tyranny at work, Father José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga’s example showing that this is not an inevitability roundly ignored.

    but it’s all an un-self-aware punch & judy show until the king in the mountain returns to set things right:
    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/11/anarcho-monarchism

    Like

    1. storxian, both Tolkien and Lewis were members of quite interesting literary circles in Oxford. I am wrong? Obviously, Orwell comes to mind too in that time context.

      Otherwise, yes seems we are facing one or the other tri-party-coalition, with or without the politically hybrid FDP.

      Which demands compromise.

      The loser in the CDU/CSU parties struggle concerning candidates (the Bavarian variant of the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union) just declared, there will not be any tri-party-coalition without the CDU/CSU leading the pack.

      We’ll see.

      Like

  3. “Most of these likely winners fall, I would say, in the left-conservative bracket, but there’s a lot of variation – from the hard left Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), through the also fairly left wing Just Russia party, the centrist United Russia, the centre-right New People (the least likely to pass the 5% hurdle), and the nationalist LDPR.”

    🙂

    https://vk.com/video-177565509_456241913

    Like

  4. You’re lucky! in the UK we only have two parties that are the same to choose from! (We saw what happened to Corbyns Labour if you dare offer voters a real choice) In America it’s even worse, it’s a one party state … but with typical American extravagance there are two of them

    Like

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