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Russia’s elections: New rules, old faces

  • Published at 12:01 am September 18th, 2016
Russia’s elections: New rules, old faces

Russians go to the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections that will all but guarantee a win for President Vladimir Putin’s party United Russia. Some 450 seats are up for grabs in the lower house of the Russian parliament, but will the ruling party do well again?

What are these elections?

Every five years, Russians go to the polls in local parliamentary elections. There are 450 seats up for grabs in the lower house of the Russian parliament (the State Duma), with 4,500 candidates running across 14 parties.

Some 2,000 of those candidates are running as independents.

Elected MPs will hold their seats for the next five years, with 266 seats needed by one party to win a majority. Official campaigning was held from 20 August and ended on 16 September.

How many parties are involved in the elections and who are they?

Fourteen official parties will contest the elections.

The main party in Russia is the current ruling party United Russia. It was created by President Vladimir Putin 15 years ago and is headed by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

It already has a majority of 238 seats in the Duma and is expected to do similarly well this year.

What about the other parties?

Well, it is a bit complicated. In Russia, there is no true opposition in the western sense of the word.

Rather, there are two groups of varied parties, one sanctioned by the Kremlin, the other not.

So who is this so-called sanctioned opposition?

The Kremlin-approved group of opposition parties - or so-called “system” parties - comprises of the Communist Party (mostly older supporters, nostalgic about the old Soviet Union), the LDPR (a token Liberal-Democrat party which, in reality, is a far-right nationalist party that campaigns for the return of the old Soviet Union’s borders), and Just Russia (a leftist, social-democratic party).

This collective of opposition parties is sponsored by the government and provides the acceptable and, more importantly, regulated face of Russian political opposition.

The same is true for the new liberal conservative Party of Growth, a business orientated party led by Putin’s business ombudsman Boris Titov.

Is Putin standing in these elections?

No, he is not. His next test will come in the 2018 presidential elections which, judging by the nature of Russian politics and Mr Putin’s genuinely high approval ratings, he is guaranteed to win.

So who is expected to win these elections?

Last time Russians voted in parliamentary elections in 2011, United Russia got 49% of the vote, winning 238 seats in Duma.

The Communist Party came in second with 19%. The highest-polling opposition party was Yabloko with only 3% of the popular vote. Since then, support for United Russia has waned with Levada - the only independent pollster operating in Russia before it was branded a “foreign agent” and shut down by the government - polling the ruling party at 31%, their lowest rating yet.

This significant decline is being attributed mainly to Russia’s economic downturn. Again, the Communist Party is polling second place with 10%.

Parnas will consider itself amazingly successful if they get anywhere near third place.

Sources: AP, Sky News

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