Malaysians are expecting a general election by the middle of this year but relatively few are aware that Russia will be having their own presidential elections on March 18, just one of many areas of interest that both countries share.
With the elections in the Russian Federation, it is hoped that stability and continued positive growth will prevail through the application of democratic processes according to Russian Ambassador to Malaysia Valery Yermolov.
Yermolov explained that stability in Russia, who continues to contribute to international security, development and cultural exchanges, will benefit not just Russia but the world at large.
Why coming presidential elections are so important for Russia and its citizens?
Valery Yermolov: Russia is a democratic law-bound state headed by the President, who is elected every six years. The process is a legislative procedure that we respect and follow.
Although Russia is a relatively young democracy, elections are a vital part of our statehood, providing a nationally recognized way to choose the leader of our country and allow our citizens the opportunity to shape the future of our nation, by freely expressing either support or disagreement with the current leadership.
The elections are important and complicated due to the challenges our country has to address. From security issues, foreign sanctions and anti-Russia sentiments to goals of sustainable domestic economic and social development.
These burdens fall on the shoulders of the president and our citizens expect a strong, dedicated and reliable person at the helm of our state.
Please describe the election process in Russia and what are the safeguards in ensuring a fair and democratic election?
The presidential elections’ rules in Russia are determined by the Federal Law No. 19-FZ “On the elections of the President of the Russian Federation”, dated January 10, 2003, and by the Federal Law No. 67-FZ “On basic guarantees of electoral rights and the right of citizens of the Russian Federation to participate in a referendum”, dated June 12, 2002.
These legal acts stipulate the conditions of the electoral process which conform to high international standards and reflects Russia’s commitments to international agreements.
Among the key guarantees of electoral rights is the possibility for citizens, permanently residing abroad or on business or recreational trips overseas, to participate in the presidential elections by casting their votes at polling stations, established at the 400 diplomatic and consular missions of Russia. Early voting and so-called “guest voting” in foreign cities with the dense population of Russian compatriots or tourists, is a common practice
For Malaysia, voting will take place at the embassy on Jalan Ampang and the only requirement is that the voter presents their Russian foreign passport to cast their vote.
To demonstrate our transparency, the Russian government has invited representatives of foreign media and experts as observers. You will see that Russia has nothing to hide and is ready to share its best practices.
There is always the question of security and considering the current geopolitical climate, the threat of terrorism and foreign interference. Is Russia prepared to counter these challenges during the elections?
Of course, Russian security services have excelled in creating favourable conditions for smooth and safe elections. Rest assured that we will do our best for citizens to freely and safely exercise their electoral rights.
Concerning foreign interference, Russian foreign ministry and its diplomatic missions are working closely with our foreign partners to ensure the rights of all are safeguarded.
We were very much saddened that some of our closest neighbours like Latvia and Estonia, refused to authorize requests for additional polling stations. We are also concerned by recently announced plans of several radical nationalist organizations in Ukraine to hamper voting to be held at Russian diplomatic missions.
But these examples are more like an exception than a rule. Generally, our foreign partners show understanding and give their full cooperation like in Malaysia, where authorities are always helpful and ready to provide security assistance.
Russia and its current leadership have always advocated for a multi-polar world, which many nations avoid. Are we seeing Russia being genuine to this concept by giving its own people the right to choose their leaders?
The concept of the multi-polar world was put forward by former Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov some 20 years ago. You are right that since that period Russian leadership has always been talking about the emergence of a polycentric world order.
The idea of polycentric world order is at the core of Russian foreign policy, striving to establish equal and mutually respectful relations with all countries. This is a principal position of modern Russia that is widely supported by our citizens.
It is the world order that we currently live in and where no single nation has an exclusive right to hegemony and domination in international affairs. Issues that arise in international relations can be resolved only through the collective effort of the whole international community.
Question 5: Why should distant countries such as Malaysia be interested in Russia’s national elections?
This year is a significant period for both of our countries, as we are holding presidential elections in Russia and Malaysia will have general elections to the parliament.
For both Russians and Malaysians, elections are a time of utmost concern about the future of their homeland, for continuity of policy in the spheres of economic and social development of the country, as well as maintenance of good relations with foreign nations.
Russia has always advocated ideals of justice and democracy in international affairs, and loyalty to international law. We are also at the forefront of the global struggle against violent extremism. Thus, stability in Russia and our country’s continued adherence to international commitments will be beneficial for all actors in the global arena.
Question 6: The US and certain Western nations seek to make their national elections a topic of global interest. Does Russia share this view?
Russia never purposefully seeks global attention towards its domestic or foreign affairs, but as it usually happens, fame finds us where we least expect it.
Take the unfounded accusations of Russia’s of meddling into the presidential elections in the US or the recent fabrication of Russia’s involvement in poisoning Sergey Skripal and his daughter in Britain. These episodes reveal groundless anti-Russian hysteria continues to flourish in several Western countries, despite their efforts that contrary to our interests.
Russia has always supported democratic elections in other countries and has avoided actions seen to be interfering with the domestic political situation of any sovereign state and we hope other nations will return the favour.
Question 7: Every country is different but what are some of the issues important to voters that would be of interest to the Malaysian audience?
The most important question that a voter has to answer before the elections are whether his or her choice brings any changes to the future of his country.
And some in Russia falsely believe that their vote does not matter at all and decide to avoid voting during the elections.
While as a matter of fact, every decision we make in our life brings change, positive or negative, it depends. If we choose to remain silent, someone else will definitely steal our chance to speak up. Each citizen who sincerely loves his homeland should not let anyone steal his chance to determine the future of his country. Thus, we should come and vote for the better future.