Why Russians block Trains

Konstantin Sonin, writing in the Moscow Times:

Two events this month proved that Russia has no real parliament — neither a lower nor an upper chamber. The first event was when State Duma and Federation Council lawmakers published income declarations.

The most unpleasant aspect of this was not the discovery that the lawmakers are very rich, but that their parliamentary duties are far from their primary occupation. Most are businesspeople primarily. In theory, the more businesspeople we have in the country, the wealthier the country will be. But we also need a functioning parliament that represents and defends the people’s interests.

The second event was the double explosions at the Raspadskaya coal mine in Mezhdurechensk in the Kemerovo region on May 8-9 that claimed the lives of 90 people. It also led to clashes between angry miners and the police.

Why does the mine explosion point to the need for a properly functioning parliament? First, we see that the miners there have no political representation. In a healthy democratic society, the lawmakers representing Mezhdurechensk and Kemerovo would have raised a cry in the parliament and the media. If the people elected the senators, then the senator from the Kemerovo region — whose political fate would depend on how vehemently he defended the interests of his constituents — would have acted as the “voice of the miners.”

Even if governors alone were elected by the people, then the miners would have at least some political representation. But because governors are appointed (based on the recommendation of the president), governors also utter few words on the miners’ behalf. Since the Kemerovo miners have no representation, their only outlet to get their opinions heard is to block trains.

The danger of protests spreading across the country is the price we pay for the lack of free elections and normal institutions of political representation.

There are other problems as well. Protesters in Pikalyovo in the Leningrad region blocked a highway in June, and miners in Mezhdurechensk blocked a railway last Friday, forcing the authorities to send in the riot police. But back in 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was able to break up demonstrations by miners without any political repercussions because the 1983 parliamentary elections had given her Cabinet a mandate to control the country’s unions. However well the British miners union might have been organized, the results of the previous elections made the position of the majority very clear.

How do things stand in Russia?

The Duma elections of 1999 gave then-President Vladimir Putin a mandate to use an iron fist in dealing with separatists in Chechnya. The 2003 Duma elections gave him a mandate to nationalize Yukos. But the Duma elections of 2007 did not give Putin a mandate for anything because the elections were not truly free and fair.

During the boom years, Putin could rule without a mandate. But he will have difficulty doing that now.

5 responses to “Why Russians block Trains

  1. Francis Smyth-Beresford

    “The most unpleasant aspect of this was not the discovery that the lawmakers are very rich, but that their parliamentary duties are far from their primary occupation. Most are businesspeople primarily.”

    Nonsense. Members of the Duma must work full-time at their duties, and are not permitted to run a business at the same time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Russia#Parliament

    “Deputies of the State Duma work full-time on their legislative duties; they are not allowed to serve simultaneously in local legislatures or hold Government positions.”

    Technically, members of the Federation Council can retain business assets, as the nature of their work is part-time. However, the Federation Council includes no lawmakers, and is more of a reviewing body.

    If you remove the scurrilous suggestion that Russian lawmakers can simultaneously serve as private business heads, their wealth becomes less of a consideration. Few governments are run by the peon class in any country, and the United States is normally contemptuous or suspicious – or both – of those that are.

    • The reason this is total trash is because Russia’s parliament already has made actions regarding the mine accidents, the only thing this one changes is that these laws need to be better enforced, which is not the duty of the parliament.

      This article is ridiculous, not only are it’s reasons insufficient but they’re also untrue and misused.

      • You do realize this article was written by a Russian scholar, right?

        • The Moscow Times is not a Russian-language outlet… but that’s because you lack facility in it, I am certain. As for the miners… VVP put the screws to Abramovich… who’s a darling of the West. They’re being treated better than their Western analogues (Putin made Abramovich pay up).

          I look at you occasionally, and I’ll give you a “Reigel Eagle”… the Oscar of Mendacity. Do have a good one and I’ll lift a glass to you… you are such comic relief!

          Залпом!

  2. Haha thats rich the law says something and so russian doesn’t do it fat chance. The Putin and his cronies now fat and happy with making the Russian enjoy their exploitation and after killing a hole lot of muslims in the Caucasus. Now slowly things fall apart (faster) and social agitation increases leading to the inevitable confrontation and putin turns his bloody hands on the ones whcheered journalist getting beaten or even killed those who whaled when the US said human rights need to respected (Those not in the Republican and Democratic Party)

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