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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.
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.