This past Sunday Russians voted in regional elections for legislative assemblies in 14 of Russia’s 86 regions. Although their choices failed to surprise anyone, bloggers did find much to write about.
Andy of Siberian Light:
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that pro-Putin party United Russia came first in 13 of the 14 regions, with around 46% of the vote. Nor will it surprise you to hear that newly formed pro-Putin party A Just Russia won in the 14th region.
For me, though, I was impressed that the Communist Party managed to hang on to a reasonable share of the vote – finishing second overall, with around 16% of the votes cast.
Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog:
There isn’t much to say about the results of Sunday’s local elections in Russia. That is except that Putin’s “managed democracy” seems to be going at full steam. The elections wielded few surprises, both in terms of results or scandals.
Lastly, and perhaps, more importantly it appears that one of Putin’s legacies is to make Russia into a two party system[.]
[…] Russia is developing its own versions of the Republican/Tory and Democratic/Labor Parties. The Russians are learning liberal democracy very well.
James Westlake of ApricotFlan:
There’s not a lot interesting or surprising about the results from Sunday’s state parliament elections in 14 provinces across Russia. As predicted, the two pro-Kremlin parties won all contests, with United Russia accounting for all but one of those.
- Boris Gryzlov, the head of United Russia and speaker in the federal parliament, called for the sacking of the governor of the single province which Just Russia won, Stavropol, for failing to ensure United Russia won there. This suggests to me that he doesn’t fully espouse a classically democratic mindset.
- The Communists had a stronger than anticipated showing. They didn’t win anywhere, but they had more second places than Just Russia (seven versus five) and almost doubled their vote in some key centres, compared to the last contest. And they did that with a budget which was one-twentieth of United Russia’s and one-fifteenth of Just Russia’s.
In a separate entry, ApricotFlan has covered the specifics of this year's campaign – and here's his conclusion:
[…] Winston Churchill likened observing Russian politics to watching bulldogs fighting under a carpet. For all of Putin’s vaunted popularity and control, power is not as stable or as entrenched as it might seem from the outside. Just don’t expect that carpet to be lifted anytime soon.
Samara-based Dmitri Minaev of De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis voted for SPS (the Union of Right Forces, an opposition party one step closer to its “imminent electoral death,” according to Sean's Russia Blog). In an update to his election post, Minaev describes what the vote was like in Kurgan oblast (and it reads like something from The Onion):
In one of the villages where 30 electors are officially registered, only two people voted: the candidate himself and his friend. Quite naturally, the candidate was elected with 2 votes. According to the new Russian laws which abolish the minimum turnout requirement, the election was absolutely valid.
Another Blow to Democracy (assuming you can hit a phantom) is the title of VeryRussianTochkaNet‘s election post. He writes:
Well, yeah, United Russia has won the regional elections. Well, yeah, they were massively employing the administrativny resurs and playing dirty here and there[.]
If the 1996 presidential elections had been completely free and fair, Gennady Zyuganov, of the Communist Party, would most likely have rounded off the 20th century as the leader of former Russia, and launched the USSR, slightly shaken by that 1991 fluke but recovering, towards the glorious horizons of the new millennium. If everyone got equal airtime nowadays, and there was no tampering with anything, why, people would enthusiastically vote the opposition – but not the kind of opposition you expect. I presume it wouldn’t be much of a relief for the Fierce Critics of the Kremlin, Inc. if instead of the little bald man they love to hate, they’d have to meet Russia for Russians, Inc. […]
[…] My personal affliction is that there’s no one at all on the Russian political scene that I could support. I may vote the SPS again this December, for lack of a better option; but I wish for something vivaciously down-to-earth, economically and civilly liberal while not making a fetish of liberty and about as tough on the new-fangled gay/abortion/PC lobbyism as the U.S. Republican Party, except on firmly secular grounds. (Funny how many people from a particular political culture will find this a contradiction in terms.) But enough being confrontational before there’s even anything to be confrontational about. United Russia has won another ugly victory – but frankly, and sadly, this doesn’t mean anything.
VeryRussianTochkaNet also translates from the Russian-language blogosphere's current hits – an account of alleged fraud by St. Petersburg-based LJ user veliber, who served as an election observer, and a really awesome collection of bloggers’ voting stories, photos and videos compiled by Russian journalist Natalya Radulova (LJ user radulova):
[…] Russian bloggers have noted, for example, that United Russia campaign billboards weren’t put down on election day; some people were surprised to find non-existent next-door neighbours on the voters’ lists, or to learn from their relatives that their signature magically appeared opposite their name on the list when in fact they didn’t vote. Or consider this piece of subliminal messaging, spotted by a blogger from Vologda:
It’s supposed to be a general instruction on how to vote; yet, the “sample” party ticked off on the sample voting sheet is none other than United Russia; and below, in red type, it says, “a vote marked otherwise is considered invalid”. Here’s a rundown of the most interesting election-related posts; even if you don’t read Russian the images of voting sheets and United Russia billboards vandalised in protest speak for themselves. […]