(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
We interviewed a bunch of experts about the significance of Russia’s March 4 election. Comments from Irina Zaslavskaya of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems are below.
“Regardless of the final outcome, the March 4 presidential election represents the turning point in Russia’s transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.
“For the first time, the generation born after the dismantling of the Soviet system has come to the forefront of the political process in Russia, as evidenced by the impressive protest movement that emerged after the disputed Duma election in December.
“This highly vocal, innovative grassroots movement is a testament to the fact that the Facebook, Twitter and blogging generation is not shying away from its newly found role and responsibility in demanding accountability in governance.
“We are witnessing a new relationship emerging between the Kremlin and the Russian people, though one fraught with growing pains. For the first time in Russian history, citizens are demanding respect from their leaders and are not content simply to abstain from political discourse out of apathy, cynicism or fear when they feel their opinions are not being taken into consideration.
“Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may be returning as Russia’s president after March 4, but he is going to lead a new country that is still finding a balance between rising citizen expectations and government accountability.
“Although the road ahead will be difficult, the process has already begun and is irreversible. The process of change was set in motion not from the top, but from the bottom strata of society, which has the potential to create demands and expectations beyond what the current authorities are willing to meet. It is an exciting time to see the hopes of so many generations of democracy-minded Russians start to materialise; the next chapter in this long-running saga will be written after March 4.”
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