in: Government & opposition: An international journal of comparative politics, Volume 35, Issue 3, p. 302-324
ISSN: 0017-257X (print), 1477-7053 (electronic)
It was one of the defining features of the soviet system that it allowed no legal challenge to party dominance. Elections took place at regular intervals; but from an early stage they were based upon a single slate of candidates, the 'bloc of Communists and nonparty people'. Voting was not compulsory, but it was difficult to avoid – canvassers went from house to house, ballot boxes were set up in hospitals, long-distance trains and polar observatories, and constituency officials competed with each other for the highest turnout. In theory it was possible to vote against, but this meant using the screened-off booth in the polling station, since a vote in favour, with a single candidate system, could be cast without marking the ballot paper or even looking at it. Some called these 'Elections Paradise-style: as God said to Adam, "Here is Eve, the woman of your choice"'. Bertolt Brecht, commenting on the leaf lets that had been distributed in East Berlin after the rising of 1953 which announced that the people had forfeited the government's confidence and could 'only win it back by redoubled labour', put it more directly. 'Wouldn't it be simpler,' he asked, 'if the government dissolved the people and elected another?'