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Russian Parliamentary Elections: Voting That Will Change Nothing

Vladimir Putin voted in the presidential election in Russia in 2018
Image by The Presidential Press and Information Office

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The upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 19, will unlikely change Russia’s geopolitical course. Voting is not expected to have an impact on the country’s domestic policy either, and many Russians seem to be tired of the Western-style democracy imposed on them after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

According to the Levada Center polling agency, 49 percent of Russian respondents would prefer to live in a Soviet political system. That, however, does not mean that the Communist Party will win the Duma elections. Latest polls suggest the ruling United Russia (UR) party will maintain its legislative majority, while the Communists will preserve the status of the largest systemic opposition political party in the Russian Parliament. Besides them, the far-right Liberal Democratic Party led by the controversial figure Vladimir Zhirnovsky, and the A Just Russia — For Truth party are expected to cross the five percent election threshold. In other words, nothing will change.

Even though United Russia reportedly owns its lowest rating since 2008, it is not probable that “the Party of Crooks and Thieves” – which is how many Russians describe the ruling party – will lose the elections. It is even less likely that pro-Western forces will play a significant role in the new parliament. According to some surveys, the current positions of the systemic-opposition parties are stable, which means the UR can count on 28-30 percent of the vote, while the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is supported by 16-18 percent of the Russian voters. Zhirinovsky’s LDPR is expected to get some eight percent of the vote, and A Just Russia — For Truth can count on seven percent.

However, many Russian and Western analysts find those polls rather dubious. Traditionally, they rely on Levada surveys, since the polling agency is allegedly independent. This time, however, Levada is not allowed to publish the results of electoral polls during the election campaign, since Russia’s Ministry of Justice included the non-profit organization to the list of foreign agents. Still, according to the press service of the Levada Center, its teams are conducting relevant studies, but they will be able to publish them only after the elections.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities started using US rhetoric, accusing Washington of trying to “discredit Russia’s election campaign”. Over the past five years, the US establishment has been claiming that Russia was “meddling in American elections”. Now it is Russia’s turn to blame the United States for its alleged interference in the Russian parliamentary polls.

“The United States aims to discredit Russia’s election campaign, and that is something that must not be allowed”, said Ella Pamfilova, a former human rights advocate who has become the head of Russia’s elections commission.

She claims that the entire socio-political spectrum will be represented on September 9, from the right to the left sector. Critics, however, argue the three systemic opposition parties are merely three fractions of the ruling United Russia, which gives voters an illusion of real competition. It is quite questionable, however, if the very core of the multi-party system in Western democracies is any different than in Russia.

The major difference lies in the fact that Russia, unlike most European countries, has a semi-presidential political system, which means that political parties in the State Duma do not have as important a role as parties in most European parliaments. That does not prevent them from making some exotic promises. For instance, LDPR suggests that the government should offer money to women to discourage them from abortion. The right-wing party also pushes for a reform of the administrative division of Russia by redrawing the boundaries of the federal regions so that each province has 3-5 million people.  

Unlike LDPR, the A Just Russia – For the Truth party openly pushes for recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic in the Donbass region of East Ukraine. At the same time, United Russia hesitates from opening party’s offices in the Donbass republics, although Denis Pushilin, President of the Donetsk People’s Republic, reportedly wants to join the UR that currently holds 335 of 450 seats in the Russian Duma.

The communists aim to benefit from the Covid-19 crisis. They call Covid-19 vaccinations the “rebirth of fascism” and equate the jab to weapons of mass destruction. In addition, its leader Gennady Zyuganov claims that the world’s first communist was none other than Jesus Christ. It is worth noting that Zyuganov’s close ally Pavel Grudinin, a wealthy farm boss who won 12 percent of votes when he challenged Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election, was excluded from the candidate list because the Prosecutor’s Office found he held shares in a foreign company. Grudinin is not the only one who will not be allowed to run for parliament. Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, one of the leaders of the non-systemic opposition is behind bars, and his foundation has been declared an “extremist organization”. Thus, his allies will not be able to participate in the elections that Western powers are expected to call “unfree, unfair and anti-democratic”. In spite of that, the West will keep cooperating with Russia, whenever they have common interests.

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1 comment

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Travis Russell September 14, 2021 at 10:33 pm

How can we as Americans say anything about changing anything given our current status.

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