The following appeal has been issued by prominent cultural figures, scholars and human rights defenders including Eldar Ryazanov, Oleg Basilashvili, Lia Akhedzhakova, Yury Norstein, Natalia Fateeva, Vladimir Voinovich, Yury Ryzhov, Yevgeny Yasin, Dmitry Zimin, Georgy Satarov, Aleksei Simonov, Sergei Kovalev, Yury Shmidt and Ludmila Alekseeva.
"We are seriously concerned by the deterioration in the way elections have been conducted in our country for several years now, as evidenced by a lack of genuine political competition, by relentless manipulation and vote-rigging benefiting candidates who represent the powers-that-be, as well as by arbitrary treatment of their opponents on the part of judicial and registration bodies. All this amounts to the virtually total destruction of the institution of democratic elections in our country.
The paralysis of Dmitry Medvedev's presidency; the ineffectiveness of parliament, which has long stopped being a platform for substantive discussion; the helplessness of regional and municipal authorities that increasingly demands federal intervention – these are all clear indications of a growing political crisis in Russia, a crisis of the flawed ideology of the ‘power vertical.’ Neither financial hand-outs nor rousing talk can counter the alienation of citizens from a government that has become disoriented and incapable of resolving pressing problems of concern to the active elements of Russian society.
We appeal to the Russian authorities to guarantee citizens' constitutional rights to their full extent and to express their genuine political preferences in free and fair elections for deputies to the State Duma and for President of the Russian Federation, due to take place in less than a year's time. The first step in this direction must be a lifting of the current de facto unconstitutional ban on registering new political parties and ensuring access to elections for all political forces. The choices should be those of the citizens and not of the bureaucrats: all parties being denied registration on various absurd pretexts must be registered.
If this is not done and the mockery of the political process continues, neither the majority of Russia’s citizens nor the international community will accept the elections as free and fair or their outcomes as lawful. This will inevitably undermine the legitimacy of the entire Russian system of government, from top to bottom. These changes are long overdue and can no longer be delayed. Attempts to preserve the current unconstitutional order are fraught with the danger of serious and imminent social and political turmoil. The full responsibility for a power vacuum in the country and the disastrous consequences that would follow, will rest entirely on Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and the head of the United Russia Party, Vladimir Putin.
Yu. B. Norstein
Yu. A. Ryzhov
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