One of the few things the mass protests in the winter of 2011-12 achieved was the return of direct elections for State Duma deputies representing single-member districts. They will be held in September 2016, and half of the parliamentary deputies (225) will, for the first time in 13 years, be elected by specific cities and regions. The winners in each of these 225 districts will be the candidates who receive more votes than any of their opponents. Parliamentary parties, non-parliamentary opposition groups and the Kremlin are already hard at work in preparation for these elections. A foundation with ties to the Kremlin, the Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Research (ISEPR), recently released its forecast for the elections, working from the current composition of the Duma. This ISEPR report (“Acting State Duma Deputies in their Districts — 2016”) is important and noteworthy, not only as an expert study, but as a formative one.
The parties, candidates and regional elites themselves, knowing ISEPR’s relationship with the presidential administration, will reach practical conclusions about the current internal political path of the federal government, and about what directives will be given to the governors regarding the Duma elections of the coming year.
It’s interesting, first, that the Kremlin is preparing for a significant change in the body of the Duma. According to ISEPR, there are no obvious favorites from among acting deputies in about 40-50 percent of the single-member districts, and this means that 100 or more new politicians may be elected to the Duma in these districts.
The institute predicts that only 148 of the 450 current deputies have the authority and connections necessary to achieve victory in these territories. All the rest will try to get into the Duma the easier way — through a place on a party list. But taking into account this unavoidable turnover, even the remaining Duma seats chosen through party voting could lose up to 200 acting deputies, and go to new members.