Sovereign democracy

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Sovereign democracy (Russian: суверенная демократия, suveryennaya demokratiya) is a term describing modern Russian politics first used by Vladislav Surkov on 22 February 2006 in a speech before a gathering of the Russian political party United Russia.[1] According to Surkov, sovereign democracy is:

a society's political life where the political powers, their authorities and decisions are decided and controlled by a diverse Russian nation for the purpose of reaching material welfare, freedom and fairness by all citizens, social groups and nationalities, by the people that formed it.[2]

This term was used thereafter by political figures such as Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Putin, Boris Gryzlov and Vasily Yakemenko. It is the official ideology of the Russian youth movement NASHI, created in support of Vladimir Putin

Sovereign Democracy in Russia was realised in the form of a dominant-party system which was put into place in 2007 when as a result of the Russian legislative election of 2007 the political party United Russia, headed by president Vladimir Putin, without forming a government, formally became the leading and guiding force in Russian society not unlike the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Concrete priorities and orientations of Sovereign Democracy were conceptionalized in Prime Minister Putin's Plan.

Critics of "Sovereign democracy"[edit]

According to the Washington Post, the term "sovereign democracy" conveys that "Russia's regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted without demanding any proof, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia's domestic affairs."[3] Yuri Semyonov has written:

The concept of sovereignty relates to government as a whole, and not to a certain form of rule or to a political regime. Democracy can be direct or representative, real (which has never actually existed in the human history), formal (as in antiquity, or the modern Western countries), or a fiction (as in the USSR and other so-called socialist countries).[4]

Criticizing the term in an interview for "Expert", Dmitry Medvedev pointed out that sovereignty and democracy are from different conceptual categories and fusing them is impossible. "If you take the word 'democracy' and start attaching qualifiers to it that would seem a little odd. It would lead one to think that we're talking about some other, non-traditional type of democracy." [5]

On 19 July 2006, Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the cancellation of elections in single-member constituencies as well as the raising of barriers for participation in the Duma to 7%. He remarked that "these innovations into legislation cannot be justified by theories of 'sovereign' or 'managed' democracy. Limitations that may be found to be necessary when the very existence of the government and its citizens may be threatened must be looked upon as temporary, and not elevated into principles, like is done by the theorists of 'sovereign' and 'managed' democracy. These kinds of definitions distort the essence of democracy, just like the concepts of 'socialist' and 'people's' democracy before them".[6]

Whilst talking about sovereign democracy Mikhail Kasyanov pointed out that "... the aims of this doctrine are quite clear: the concentration and holding of political power and property at any cost. The consequences of this are already evident, including the glorification of populism, the steady destruction of private and public institutions and the departure from the principals of the law, democracy, and the free market."[7]

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried has stated in an interview that

I get nervous when people put labels in front of democracy. Sovereign democracy, managed democracy, people's democracy, socialist democracy, Aryan democracy, Islamic democracy - I am not a big fan of adjectives. Managed democracy doesn't sound like democracy. Sovereign democracy strikes me as meaningless."[8]

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