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The Moscow Times, March 12, 2004

Endorsing a Candidate Not so Easy


Traditionally, one job of a newspaper before an election is to endorse a candidate, to tell its readers whom they should vote for and why.

In this election, however, the biggest decision that voters face is not whom to vote for, but whether to vote at all.

Even people who line up clearly on the side of democracy cannot agree.

Some, like Grigory Yavlinsky, are calling for a boycott. They argue that voting lends legitimacy to an election that has been a farce from the beginning and provides the voter turnout that the Kremlin so desperately wants.

They are right, of course. But so are the others, like Irina Khakamada, who say that not voting also plays into the Kremlin's hands.

Voting is a way for liberals -- and Communists and populist-nationalists -- to make their voices heard, to tell President Vladimir Putin they don't like what he is doing and demand he take their interests into account.

For this reason, a vote "against all," as tempting as it may be, sends a more garbled message.

Voting also is a way to support those who tried to make this a real campaign, like Sergei Glazyev, the candidate the Kremlin feared most. He was denied access to television and even to halls he had rented, yet he pushed on. He deserves his supporters' votes.

In appealing to people to vote, Putin said Thursday that "taking part in the election is a unique opportunity to influence the developments in your homeland."

That is only true if they don't vote for him. Paradoxically, the more people who vote for Putin, the less he will have to listen to them.

One problem with a boycott is that if a voter does not cast his own ballot, someone is likely to cast it for him. Unused ballots only make ballot-stuffing easier.

Another is that a boycott without the support of the candidates whose campaigns have been hamstrung by the Kremlin loses its punch. If Khakamada, Glazyev, Nikolai Kharitonov and Oleg Malyshkin had pulled out of the race, leaving only Putin and his page Sergei Mironov, a boycott could have sent a powerful message.

Still, it would be hard to criticize those who decide to stay home from this election.

In the end, we are left with only one definite conclusion, and that is to vote, or not vote, but not for Putin.

His consolidation of power has put the country on a dangerous road toward authoritarianism and along the way made a mockery of democracy out of this election.


See also:

the original at

Presidential elections 2004

The Moscow Times, March 12, 2004

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