Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Russia’s Propiska Rules Represent ‘System of Internal Apartheid,’ Baykov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 9 – In Russia today, Aleksey Baykov says, there exists “a system of internal apartheid, one which divides all the population into two categories with unequal rights, into Spartans and helots, citizens of the polis and non-citizens, [and] into ‘Cossacks’ and ‘aliens,’ in short into local people and immigrants.” 

            The Moscow commentator notes that this system has a name: “the institution of residence permits or propiskas” profoundly who can vote and where, a set of consequences clearly shown in the last few elections in the city of Moscow (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/10/08/78108-kazaki-i-iloty).

                According to the Moscow city election authorities, as of July 1, 2018, there were 7,202,493 people with the right to vote in a city which has between 21 and 25 million residents. Some of those without that right are too young, of course, but most of those who can’t vote are residents, who work and pay taxes but are treated as aliens.

            Worse, this very same situation exists in St. Petersburg and all the other Russian cities which are the destinations of migration flows. It should be clear to everyone that “this contradicts the very logic of democracy,” Baykov says.

            According to him, “present-day democracy is above all ‘the state of the tax payers,’ in which those who work and spend money which gives others the possibility to work are the ones who vote.”  But that isn’t the case in Russia. Not only those from other countries but those from other regions of Russia can’t vote where they work.

            The latter of course are allowed to return home to where they are registered, but few are going to incur the time and expense of travelling perhaps thousands of kilometers to do so. They are thus disenfranchised by their own government’s laws. Some 20 regions have adopted rules following international practice, but they don’t publicize the fact very much.

            What is especially depressing, the Moscow commentator continues, is that the Russian opposition which should be interested in acquiring more votes has seldom if ever taken up the cause of those excluded because of the propiska system which is unconstitutional but very much in practice in Russia today.   

                Because Russian citizens who move from one place to another to work can’t vote, no one takes much interest in them because they can’t offer any candidate something of value, Baykov says. Those who think “such an order of things is just” should “stop calling themselves ‘democrats,’” because they aren’t.

            Unlike in the EU, only Russian citizens and people from Belarus, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have the right to take part in elections for local offices. Few do because no one tells these people they have the right. As a result, Baykov continues, only a microscopic number – ‘from 20 to 30 people’ – actually do. 

            This system must change, he concludes, and opposition parties have the greatest possible interest in changing it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment