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Putin’s Party Untroubled Ahead of Duma Polls

United Russia is sure to retain control of the lower house, but the overall makeup of the legislature could reveal some surprises. 

16 September 2016

After the last elections to the Russian State Duma, in 2011, allegations the Kremlin manipulated the process unleashed the most serious challenge President Vladimir Putin had yet faced.

 

Analysts haven’t ventured to forecast anything like that happening after Sunday’s nationwide vote, but despite the almost certain victory for Putin’s party, the new Duma will be markedly different, as for the first time some deputies will compete in first-past-the-post races.

 

The ruling United Russia party has reversed a slide in the polls and should win around 45 percent of the vote, four points down from 2011, Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) director Valery Fedorov told Euronews.

Meeting RussiaA rally for United Russia. Image by Moscow-live.ru/Flickrcommons

 

The only declared opposition party in the current Duma, A Just Russia, is not expected to repeat its strong performance five years ago, but could manage to retain some of its seats. The non-parliamentary opposition headed by the liberal Yabloko and Parnas parties has scant chance of entering parliament, Fedorov said, although Yabloko could exceed the threshold of 3 percent needed to secure state funding.

 

One candidate is definitively breaking the mold, regardless of whether he wins a seat: Bulat Balantaev, a Parnas candidate in Novosibirsk, says he is the first openly gay Duma candidate ever. 

 

“I decided to run because the ruling party has adopted an extreme homophobic position. The authorities are facilitating a homophobic discourse in society that is inciting hate crimes,” Balantaev said in an interview for RFE/RL.

 

In a significant change, half of the Duma will be elected directly in single-member districts. As the Financial Times reports, this could see more independent-minded deputies returned. 

 

“The new Duma is predestined to be less united but more important than its predecessor,” political scientist Ekaterina Shulman wrote this week in Vedomosti.

 

  • Independent pollster Levada forecasts a low turnout. Only 20 percent of those surveyed recently said they will definitely vote, with 28 percent saying they might vote.

 

  • The nationalist Liberal Democratic Party could replace the Communists as the second-largest group in the Duma, Fedorov said.

 

  • Opposition activists continue to be targets of violence, a study commissioned by Gazeta.ru has found. Fifty-five attacks occurred in the first half of 2016, compared to 50 for all of 2015 and 60 in 2014. Attacks tend to peak during periods of heightened social tension, such as the Pussy Riot trial in 2012, the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2014, and this year’s elections.

 

  • Parnas founder and prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov died in a drive-by shooting near Red Square in February 2015. Five men from Chechnya are suspected of the killing.
Compiled by Aliautsina Kuzmiankova
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