Russia’s Predictable Elections Foreshadow Unpredictability Next Year

Russia’s Predictable Elections Foreshadow Unpredictability Next Year

The victory of Putin's party in Sunday's elections for the Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, was widely expected, and the results did not disappoint. According to the preliminary tally, the governing United Russia Party, whose list of candidates was headed by Putin himself, received almost two-thirds of the vote.

In alliance with the two other pro-Kremlin parties (the Liberal Democratic Party and the Just Russia Party) that gained sufficient shares of the vote (7 percent) to receive national representation, the pro-Putin bloc will control an overwhelming majority in the Duma. Only the Communists, which won 11-12 percent of the ballot, will have opposition deputies in the lower house.

Changes in the election rules since the 2003 ballot made it harder for candidates that opposed the United Russia Party to triumph at the polls. These stricter restrictions include requiring more voter signatures for candidates to appear on the ballot, the elimination of independent district elections that had allowed locally popular but unaffiliated politicians to gain seats, and the elevated hurdle that requires any party win at least 7 percent of the national vote (rather than at least 5 percent in 2003) to gain representation in the Duma. Related changes, such as increased Kremlin control over the broadcast media and non-governmental organizations operating in Russia, also made it harder for candidates not enjoying government backing to contest elections.

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