On Sunday 18 September, elections were held in Russia. The 450 seats of the State Duma were newly distributed under tense global circumstances. One should keep in mind that elections in the world’s largest country face enormous challenges caused by twelve time zones, 110 million eligible voters and some 90,000 polling stations.
Given the international climate of a western barrage of propaganda against Russia, whether due to the Crimea, Donbass, Syria, Edward Snowden or even Brexit, it is all the more surprising that the worst tirades this time largely failed to be forthcoming. What had happened?
After some strident protests had occurred surrounding the 2011 State Duma elections, in the run-up to these elections the highest attention was paid to the incontestable legitimacy and transparency of the elections so as to leave no doubt that the elections will be held in line with the standards of other developed democratic states and according to international law. Thus, at an early stage, the Chairman of the State Duma, Sergey Naryshkin, invited the parliamentary representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the parliamentary representatives of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the OSCE, the Chairman of the parliaments of the Mercosur countries, the interparliamentary assembly of the orthodoxy and so on to observe the elections. Ultimately, more than 1,000 election observers followed this invitation to Russia.
The most important legitimacy factor, however, was the general mood among the population itself, because the elections were perceived as open and fair. Whereas in 2011, according to the independent Moscow opinion research institute “Levada Centre”, 31% of the respondents suspected election rigging probable, this time it was only 13%.
At this year’s State Duma elections, a total of 14 parties managed to reach the registration for nationwide candidacy –more than twice as many as in 2011 – and the hurdle for entry into the State Duma has also been significantly reduced from 7% to 5%. This time, any kind of favouritism or special facilities for candidates of the ruling party was prevented by particularly restrictive provisions. Thus, for example, the case of the powerful State Councillor for the Republic of Yakutia, Andrey Borisov (United Russia), who did not manage to register as a candidate because he had submitted too many invalid signatures of support, attracted a great deal of attention. Nevertheless, he was granted no help or leniency whatsoever. Borisov had to throw in the towel.
With 54.28% of the votes “United Russia” won 140 parliamentary seats and 203 direct mandates. With 343 seats out of a total of 450 seats, the party of the president for the first time won the constitutional majority with three quarters of the seats. Only the Communists, “Fair Russia” and Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) also made their way into the State Duma. Given the election results, the silence of the usually anti-Russian Western media seems all the more surprising. But after the representatives of the opposition parties recognised the largely smooth course of the elections, there were hardly any interview partners remaining for slobbering commentaries, except the daughter by profession of Boris Nemtsov or the negligible fan club of Pussy Riot.
With the parliamentary demise of Jablonko, the already marginal acceptance of Western-based political parties and organisations appears to have been finally sealed. In addition, the lack of “investment opportunities” for unrest and orange revolutions and for all the highly endowed good works of a Mr Soros made it, thanks to strict transparency laws, impossible to intervene in the elections from the outside.
The measures taken to achieve a genuine civil society could thus calmly take hold and unfold. Putin’s efforts to reform the legal system, pushed forward since 2011, were aimed at facilitating the candidacy of political parties in elections. They also significantly simplified the procedure and encouraged the opponents of the government to compete under equal conditions. All this was compounded by the successful but cautious election campaign led by Wjatscheslaw Wolodin, deputy head of the Presidential Administration, who had already successfully led the presidential elections in 2012, and now led the Duma elections in 2016.
Advertising materials were used with great restraint during the election campaign. Even in Moscow, election posters were hardly to be seen immediately before the elections. “United Russia” explained this by the fact that the wastage of campaign funds was not in the interests of the electorate during economically strained times – a truly inspiring viewpoint, especially in view of the US-election campaign, where some 250 million dollars in Hillary Clinton’s official budget for the election campaign, funded by illustrious sources such as armament companies and the Saudi guardian of the holy places of Mecca and Medina, are waiting for the opportunity to impart “democratic values” or merely to communicate Hillary Clinton’s health status.
The great success of “United Russia”, especially in the major urban centres, is also attributable to the fact that every citizen eligible to vote this time had the opportunity to go through a completely transparent selection process as a candidate within his party, and, therefore, to participate in it actively and passively. This has led to a great number of new candidates and elected representatives. Never before has the membership of the Duma been such a representative cross-section of the various professional groups and social levels of the population. This also made a major contribution to the election’s legitimisation. The central election commission was led by the internationally recognised civil activist Ella Pamfilova – who is highly respected in Russia. On 22 September, the election commission concluded that because of irregularities in nine polling stations (from a total of 90,000) the election results had to be annulled – a résumé that, given our repeatedly failed presidential elections, we in Austria can only dream of. •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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