Russians View U.S. Voting System As Undemocratic

By Yaroslav Shamborovskyy | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Kiev, Ukraine ( - Russian media and commentators have reacted with some glee to the still-undecided U.S. presidential election.

"The recount in the U.S. may rid Russians of their last illusions about the fairness of the democratic form of rule," said the independent daily Nesavisimaya Gazeta. "Democracy made fun of the American people," the paper said.

"The vote recount in the single state has already provoked the accusations [of irregularities], so familiar to developing democracies, including Russia."

Unlike the U.S. voting system, Russia has a simple method of electing a president. Russians vote directly for a presidential candidate, and whoever gets more than 50 percent of the vote wins. Failure to win an absolute majority leads to a second-round runoff between the leading contenders.

The uncertainty in Florida "became a pleasant surprise for us Russians," said Utro.

"There is nothing more delightful than secretly creating an idol and then [overthrowing] it publicly", it said, suggesting that the U.S. was setting a bad example for emerging democracies.

"The world, which could never make the U.S. ashamed of the siege of Iraq or the bombing of Belgrade, now has the possibility [of doing so]," Utro commented.

Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov called the U.S. way of voting "simply quite stupid" and said it needed "modernizing."

The head of Russia's Central Elections Commission, Alexander Veshnyakov, returned from a visit to the U.S. to observe the voting process and also questioned the American system.

"In Russia, presidential elections are conducted in a more democratic way and are more easily understood by the voters," Kommersant quoted him as saying.

But Veshnyakov has himself been under fire this year for allegedly widespread irregularities in voting during the presidential election won easily by Putin last March.

The Moscow Times quoted Alexander Saly, the head of an official commission probing allegations of fraud in that election, as saying Veshnyakov should worry about what happened in the Russian vote, not in the U.S.

Saly said he did not think fraud had played a part in the American election.

"In the United States, every precinct commission head knows that if any fraud is discovered at his precinct, he will be imprisoned for several years. [In Russia] the law means nothing and no one is being punished for committing fraud."

A joke originating on a satirical Website and making the rounds in Moscow says Veshnyakov has been dispatched to Florida to sort out the mess. Taking a dig at concerns of serious irregularities in the Russian vote, the punch line runs: "Latest reports show Vladimir Putin in the lead."

Meanwhile Sergey Blagovolin, a member of the Russian President's Council, has expressed the view that a Republican administration will not be bad for Russia.

"Considering Republicans' [supposed] dislike for Russia, I do not understand or accept the statement," NEP quoted him as saying. "There is no 'like' or 'dislike' in politics. The Republicans' team consists of brilliant professionals."

In his reaction to a possible Bush victory, Leonid Gozman, a manager of Russia's largest energy production company, said a distinction should be made between "politicians' personal relations and Americans' attitude to Russian people."

Should Gore win on the other hand, said Gozman, "we shouldn't expect Gore will do as Clinton did ... Gore is not Clinton, he is another person, so we do not know how he will act a president.

"I think the new president will act according to the interests of his country. And those interests do not change."

Political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov also appears to believe Russia would benefit from a Bush victory.

The Republicans have in the past been less inclined than the Democrats to engage in "global moralizing," the Moscow Times quoted him as saying.

Other specialists, however, pointed to the issue of the National Missile Defense proposal under consideration in Washington, noting that a Bush administration would be less likely to compromise over the issue.

Should the next administration decide to go ahead with developing the anti-missile shield, it could jeopardize the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Russia insists should not be amended.

(Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)