Russia: Duma election: What to expect | New Eastern Europe

Over the past few years, the Russian authorities have been gradually rolling out a strategy for managing the upcoming State Duma election. What are the elements of this strategy, and will it help the Kremlin achieve its objectives? Like most modern authoritarian regimes which organise elections, the regime in Russia aspires to be viewed as broadly legitimate while keeping political pluralism highly constrained. These two objectives, evidently, are difficult to reconcile. In order to increase legitimacy, the regime allows more electoral competition, but at the same time it has an incentive to minimise competition, to which end it resorts to heavy-handed tactics including fraud, undermining its legitimacy. Electoral authoritarian regimes such as Russia’s employ idiosyncratic strategies to balance the dual objectives of maintaining legitimacy and limiting competition. They thereby face inevitable trade-offs in crafting their strategies and must regularly adapt them to account for changing circumstances. In the previous Duma election of 2011, the authorities sought to bank on the perceived strength of the ruling United Russia party and on the administrative capacity of the authorities (at different levels) to deliver required election results. This strategy had several flaws. Fewer people than anticipated were ready to vote for United Russia. Analyses of the voting results show that in many areas where no major election fraud was committed, only a quarter to a third of votes went to the ruling party. In order to get a (slight) majority of seats in the Duma, major election fraud was necessary. It was met by significant upheaval, mainly in the form of a wave of popular protests that drew the biggest crowds in Russia since the early 1990s. The fallout from the 2011 election was viewed in Russian political circles as a serious crisis.

Full Article: Russia’s Duma election. What to expect.

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