Russia: More on the Duma Election

Global Voices Online
Monday, December 3, 2007

The previous Global Voices post on the general elections in Russia was a translation of Russian bloggers' views; the post below deals with what some of the English-language Russia bloggers have been writing recently.

On Dec. 1, The Russian Dilettante finally broke his silence with this comment on the upcoming vote:

It's all predictable, yet not quite

No doubt, tomorrow's parliamentary election is not going to be fair or free. But the interesting thing about it that United Russia, the "party of power," is seriously afraid it may not get the majority it wants. (I'm not sure if it is 50% or 75% or some other number between 50% and 100%.) They're sure to fix it anyway, but it may not be the neat job they were hoping for.

Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog wrote this on the eve of the election:

[...] If voter turnout does surprise Russia watchers and ends up low, there is always Plan B. The lack of physical appearance will certainly be supplemented with a flood of absentee ballots. Absentee ballots allow one person to cast several votes in several different polling stations. Police in Komi have already confiscated 60 absentee ballots purchased on Kirov region. Defiant, the Communists have vowed to not stand for the counting of “dead souls.” But in reality, what are they going to do about it? [...]

In a comment to Guillory's post, Tim Newman of White Sun of the Desert described what the election felt like at Russia's - and Eurasia's - easternmost edge:

Election fever in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk consisted of a few individuals - who less like political activists and more as pretty girls paid to distribute flyers - standing about in United Russia bibs. I haven’t heard of a single person mention the election, never mind vote in it. The Russian in my household missed doing her civic duty by spending the entire day in bed sleeping off a mountain of alcohol from the night before. I suspect most Sakhalin Islanders were doing the same. I guess remoteness from Moscow doesn’t help.

St. Petersburg-based Megan Case reflected on political views of the Russians she knows:

[...] If my students are any gauge, this is A-OK with most of the Russian population. One young woman in all seriousness told me that she couldn’t understand why Putin couldn’t run for a third term as president. So many students just said that Putin is the only person who can ensure that the relative stability of the past few years continues. So many people seem to think that the “democrats” or the “westernizers” had their chance in the 1990s and they screwed it all up. I would say they never really had a chance, but try arguing that with someone who lived through the ’90s in Russia.


Anyway, tomorrow most of my friends will go out and vote for SPS and Yabloko without much hope, but a feeling of responsibility to participate in the shred of democratic process that is left. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I don’t think it will bring any light at the end of the tunnel for politics in Russia.

Nosemonkey/Europhobia made an attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable:

[...] The only trouble is that Putin is one of the least understood, most unpredictable political leaders the world has ever seen. Nobody really knows what he’s going to do next. Theories run the full range from him being a mere puppet for shadowy forces behind the scenes to being an autocrat along the lines of Stalin and the Tsars. He may rule the country for decades to come - or he may fade into complete obscurity following March’s presidential elections (at which he must stand down), to be replaced by yet another classic Russian riddle wrapped in an enigma.

The one thing that is certain is that, for the first time in the country’s history, the vast, vast majority of the people of Russia are neither enslaved nor being massacred in their millions. Who can blame them for wanting to keep the status quo?

Mark MacKinnon cited the official results and wrote about the implications of the outcome:

[...] According to official results, his United Russia party won upwards of 64 per cent of the vote in yesterday's Duma elections. According to Vladimir Vladimirovich himself, that translates into 315 of the 450 seats in parliament.

That two-thirds majority in the Duma allows Putin and his acolytes to alter the constitution. They can abolish term limits so that Putin can run again in the presidential vote this spring. They can rename the country Putinistan. [...]

MacKinnon has no doubts "that Vladimir Putin will continue to dominate the Russian political scene after his term ends next year":

[...] If he doesn't find a way to retain the presidency (and I remain convinced that he will), he'll be the most powerful prime minister Russians have had since the post was created. If he's neither president nor PM, he'll be the man who yanks the strings on both. [...]

Perspectives on the New Russia noted that, despite some predictions, four parties instead of just two have made it into the new Duma:

[...] 1. The Liberal Democratic Party, like the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy nor Roman), is neither liberal or democratic. Instead, it generally sells its votes to United Russia and is managed by the colorful Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pontificates and makes alot of noise, ultimately signifying nothing.

2. A Just Russia, a party rumored to have been started by the Kremlin, that is headed by the sycophant Sergei Mironov, who like the Roman senate in the first century BC calling for Caesar to become dictator, is continually calling for Putin to set himself up for a third term...

Thus, in effect United Russia will control almost 80% of the Duma - enough to make any constitutional changes if they so desire. [...]

Guillory's post-election entry ended with a Putin joke:

Putin calls his mother on the phone and says: “Hello mama. It’s me, Vladimir. I won the elections”. Putin’s mother responds:

“Really? Honestly?”. “Mama,” Putin answers. “Can you please not nag me about that.”

Just think. This election was just a dress rehearsal for March. Then, the gloves will really come off.

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