What have we learnt about ourselves after the elections?

MOSCOW. (Political scientist Grigory Melamedov for RIA Novosti) - The 2008 elections are over; and as it usually happens, we perceive them in a different light than during the election campaign.

When results are being summed up at night, everyone is watching the figures, but in the morning they are no longer so interesting.

I'd like to look at the presidential elections in Russia from a different angle, because under any circumstances they are a good indication of what is taking place in the country. In a way, they are Russia's political portrait.

It would be interesting to compare these elections with three previous campaigns that took place after the adoption of the Constitution in 1993.

The 1996 elections were a final battle between the advocates and opponents of return to the Soviet times. But then it was hard to imagine that it was the last clash.

In 2000, the presidential and parliamentary elections blended together, drawing a line under the Yeltsin era. They answered the question that worried everyone - what lay in store?

The third elections were a technical procedure - they were only held because the Constitution required this, and were not associated with any changes.

What is happening now? I think the assertion that the elections have given a vote of confidence to Vladimir Putin and his associates is correct, but only in a symbolic sense. High popularity of Putin and Dmitry Medvedev and their common positions were obvious, and did not require any special confirmation. Likewise, we can talk about the summing-up of the results of Putin's eight year-long rule only in a symbolic sense. In reality, these results were summed up much earlier. We also knew that there is opposition in Russia, but it does not have any serious leaders. I believe the most important results of the elections are different.

First, a new man, but a member of the old team has become the head of state. This situation is unprecedented for Russia. The new president is bound to make some changes in the previous course despite all statements to the contrary. There are some changes in the line even in the stable United States when a vice president becomes president, or when in Germany, Britain, France, and Japan one leader is replaced by a representative of the same party, although it is hard to imagine stronger continuity.

Second, a tandem has replaced one-man rule. Regular two-seat tandem bicycles are designed for the riding of two persons together, one after another. Up to now such an unusual situation was only a prospect, but now it has become reality.

The third important moment, which the presidential elections have revealed for the first time concerns international affairs. Although the election campaign coincided with a series of new conflicts between Russia and the West, neither Putin nor Medvedev spoke about any changes in foreign policy. Apparently, this question has become clear after years of uncertainty - Russia's role in the world, its proximity or remoteness from other countries has become a constant.

This applies not only to major foreign powers but also to CIS countries. Needless to say, Medvedev spoke about special relations with them but explained this by their proximity rather than a common past and future.

The leader of the Russian Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, could not give up on his idea of voluntary unification of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly, Kazakhstan. But on the whole, it seems that the once painful Russian problem of recognizing the former union republics as equals has gradually disappeared.

Finally, the opposition rallies have given much food for thought. This particularly applies to liberals. No right-wing politicians took part in the recent elections for different reasons, and a considerable part of the liberal opposition voted for the Communists.

But the Orthodox Communists should not be happy about this. Right-wing voters would have never backed them if they saw in their party even the smallest threat of return to Soviet-style socialism. For them, voting for the Communist was a form of protest - similar to abstaining from the elections or spoiling a ballot paper.

This is a very indicative moment. The Soviet times are ceasing to be a point of departure for the majority of citizens. Russian foreign and domestic policies, attitude to current events, and voting motives are being shaped by the more recent reality. Is there a threat to Russian democracy or not? Whatever the answer, it is not rooted in the Soviet past.

If Russians are asked to describe this country in the light of the presidential elections, they will give very different answers. Everyone is worried about different things. But probably, everyone will agree that Russian society is no longer based on ideology. Obviously, Medvedev is well aware of this. He said that he is not interested in the debates on the national idea.

Medvedev's victory has largely been guaranteed by the factors that are not linked with his personal features. There are some pluses in this, but also a big minus. As distinct from his predecessors, he has not scored a single point on popular anger or in the fight against his opponents. It would be great to see this as a sign of our society's growing tolerance, but there are not enough grounds for this conclusion. But what is de-ideologization without tolerance? How long will this situation last, and what will come next? It remains to be seen.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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