This article originally appeared at The New York Observer
Vladimir Churov, the head of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission since 2007, does not believe anything positive could come out of studying the American experience with democracy – because democracy in the US is nothing more than a bunch of dirty tricks.
“All those who watched the movie Gangs of New York,” he thundered to a cheering young audience during last week’s Russian Educational Youth Forum Terra Scientia on Klyazma River. “That is about the birth of American democracy … All the dirty techniques starting from bribery of voters and ending with [political] assassinations, they all were invented there,” he continued.
It is not the first time Mr. Churov has lashed out against the U.S. In 2012 he was quoted as saying to the no less supportive students of the Russian Orthodox University that the US elections are “the worst in the world”, that “no election [process] in the world is organized worse than the American one and they [Americans] don’t want to make it any better – seventeen presidents have been elected by a tiny minority!”
He recently lamented that the members of the Electoral College regularly vote against the will of the majority of American voters and several US Presidents have been elected despite receiving a smaller total of the popular vote than their rivals. (In fact, this has occurred four times and only once in 130 years. John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush were each elected with less in 2000 was elected President with a minority of the popular vote. Far more common is for a president to be elected with less than half the total popular vote, such as both of Bill Clinton’s elections, when “spoiler” candidate Ross Perot helped make it impossible for either candidate to get to 50%.)
According to Mr. Churov, there’s nothing to be learned by Russia from the electoral tradition of the US.
Last March, he suggested that US Senators and Congressmen must be evaluated on the issue of their mental health and that the resulting certificates proving their sanity should be handed over before they start their election campaigns.
Mr. Churov’s ire was sparked by a letter sent to President Obama by US Senators asking for the 13 Russian officials to be added to the so-called Magnitsky List—the Act that prevents those on it from attaining visas and other privileges—after the assassination of Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov.
In 2014, in response to the refusal of the White House to recognize the results of the elections in Crimea, which US considers to be annexed by Russia, Mr. Churov came up with the idea to reconsider by Russia the results of the Texas’ and New Mexico’s decisions to become the part of the US. “My gut feeling is that there was something wrong in the 19th century with the referendum [on joining the Union].
Let us have the Russian Institute for the Electoral Rights thoroughly look into the matter – should we recognize the elections in these states?” (In 1836, after the war with Mexico, Texas declared independence, which Mexico didn’t recognize. In 1845, the Congress of Texas made a decision to join the US. New Mexico was ceded by Mexico in 1848 as a result of war, and became a state in 1912.)
According to Mr. Churov, there’s nothing to be learned by Russia from the electoral tradition of the US. “And these people [the US] are trying to teach us? Rather, we are the ones who will teach them!” he declared during last week’s Terra Scientia Forum. Russia’s electoral system is far superior to the American one, Mr. Churov maintains, because in the US, only 12% of the population trust it, while in Russia that figure is 60%.
To be fair, US electoral system is not the only whipping boy for Mr. Churov. Last May, commenting on the results of 2014 Scotland’s independence referendum, he concluded that it was “a total falsification.”