A political sea change is emerging within the Russian Federation, and it’s all thanks to a web app. MunDep (that’s short for “municipal deputy”) is the online interface that gamifies the process of turning someone from Russian citizen into Russian political candidate. The country’s notorious bureaucracy usually keeps citizens away from participating in politics meaningfully, but MunDep presents itself as a convenient central hub for meeting a prospective candidate’s every conceivable need. It guides them through the process of filling out paperwork, collecting signatures, and printing political leaflets for distribution. When candidates face trouble of any sort, they can even chat with the human staff via voice or text. Thoroughly cutting through Russia’s red tape, this platform turns the country’s political registration process into a 15-step “quest” for office. MunDep is the brainchild of Maxim Katz, a former municipal representative currently focused on political technology. He operates it alongside Dmitry Gudkov, former Russian parliament member and current Moscow mayoral candidate, and Vitali Shkliarov, a former operative for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The project was announced in February this year and started onboarding candidates just a few weeks later in March. The months of effort that followed would yield some interesting results for the country’s September 10th municipal elections.
“We entered 1,054 new candidates into the regional elections and won 266 seats,” says Gudkov. “This has never happened before. Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party lost control of several Moscow voting precincts.” This includes the district southwest of the Kremlin, where Putin himself is registered to vote.
Putin surrogate and press secretary Dmitry Peskov called these results“excellent” and a demonstration of “what pluralism and political competition are all about,” but Katz isn’t buying it. “The Kremlin did everything it could to silence this election,” he says. “There was no announcement about the elections from the government, in the newspapers, or anywhere. This strategy worked against them — they didn’t expect that we’d be able to inform so many people.”
Full Article: How Russians use technology to influence their own elections.