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Democracy in Russia ebbing away....

The Washington Post reports on how so-called democarcy in Russia is slipping away under President Putin's leadership. What is happening in Russia won't come as a surprise to any observer of Russian politics - and who remembers that Putin was, after all, a KGB operative.

"Give the elections back to the people, bastards!" These words were emblazoned on a bright yellow banner more than 30 feet long that hung over the Moscow River facing the Kremlin. A couple of young activists positioned themselves in the ropework holding up the banner for about 30 minutes, until they were taken off and delivered to a police station.

Such extravagant political performances may be typical at, say, a Greenpeace protest but not over something that has in fact become increasingly common: a government encroachment on voting rights.

Russia is undergoing yet another round of election-rule tightening -- as usual, a product of the country's rubber-stamp legislature. The protesters see it as marking the "virtual elimination of the system of free elections" in Russia, as they said in their statement. Over the past two years, election rules have been repeatedly refashioned and readjusted so that no undesired forces or figures can slip through the process."

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It's probably taken by most that all the countries in Europe are equally democratic. Not so, concludes a survey. Some are more democratic than others.

"Denmark's democracy is in rude health while the political systems of Britain and France have some major shortcomings, according to a new Swiss-German study ranking the quality of democracy in 30 nations. Germany achieves a respectable score but falls short of a top 10 slot.

Germany is more democratic than France, Britain and even Switzerland, according to a study released last week by the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), a research institute funded by the German government.

The 'democracy barometer' measures how well 30 established democracies implement the principles of freedom and equality. Denmark gets top marks, while Britain and France are found wanting, ranking 26th and 27th respectively. Costa Rica came last, just behind South Africa and Poland.

The study spans the …