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Is the era of free elections over?

Is the era of free elections over?

Vladimir Putin, as expected, has become the president of one of the world's superpowers, Russia, for the fifth time. The Russian leader is now on par with Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the former USSR. Boris Yeltsin, who had taken over as the president of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, anointed Putin as his Prime Minister in 1999. Putin was elected as the president in 2000. After serving for the second time Putin stepped down due to the four-year-term restriction and switched to be the prime minister, inducting his acolyte Medvedev as the president. But in 2012, Putin himself became president and then brought in an amendment to extend the presidential term to six years. Thus, he was re-elected as president in 2018. That he has completed the term has necessitated another election in 2024. As the world knows it is wholly a one-side affair, no wonder Putin is elected to be Russia's dictator for the fifth time. His staunch opponent from Opposition Alexei Navalny died while in jail under mysterious circumstance. Another opponent from the opposition, Boris Nemtsov also vanished. The elections, carried out with remaining Opposition leaders in jail and Putin wielding the absolute power, were not free or fair. Putin received 87.83 percent of the votes. Communist Party leader Nikolai Varitonov who took on Putin received just four percent votes. None of the Western powers hailed Putin's election as free. Jubilant in victory, Putin claimed it as the proof of public support to his invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian army’s attack on Ukraine which began on February 24, 2022 continues with no end in sight even after two years. The heavy loss of lives and economic crisis that the war has brought on Russia and Ukraine on the one hand, the economic issues in Europe and other countries on the other hand continue to be irreparable. The US, Britain, France and Germany are helping Ukraine with arms and money using it as an opportunity to expand NATO. As of February 24, an estimated 13,287 civilians have been killed on the Ukrainian side and 19,494 people have been injured. Agencies put the number of soldiers killed at 70,000 and wounded at 120,000. Having 1,13,200 soldiers killed and 2,14,000 wounded, Putin's Russia is equally bleeding. His mentality in claiming victory as the people’s approbation for war can be compared only to that of a sadist’s. If the US’ move to include Ukraine in the NATO was the provocation for attacking Ukraine, indications are that his worst fears are yet to happen.

As 64 nations are going to polls in 2024, polls held in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Russia have to be pointed out as the show of deterioration of democracy. International observers point out the polls in Bangladesh carried out by Hasina Wajid suppressing and imprisoning the Opposition leaders were a farce. In Pakistan, Former Prime Minister Imran Khan was jailed in spite of coming to power with popular support. The elections were neither free nor fair; his party symbol was frozen, his followers were not allowed to contest in party tickets. Here is coming 18th Lok Sabha polls in what is touted to be the world’s largest democracy, India. It remains to be seen how free and fair the elections under Narendra Modi and the Hindutva brigade will be, considering its full use of the government machinery and legalization of corruption. Though people have hope in the intervention of the apex court, the question is how we can rest assured that tragedies in three aforesaid democracies will not be repeated given the absence of a strong and stable opposition.

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TAGS:PutinEditorialFree electdionsRussian election
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