Senior ruling-party politicians are throwing their weight behind a proposal to move Russia’s next parliamentary elections up three months to September 2016, a shift that could put opposition candidates at a further disadvantage by relegating the campaign to vacation season. Sergei Naryshkin, leader of parliament’s lower chamber and a member of President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, on Thursday called the rescheduling proposal “possible and even wise,” according to the Interfax news agency. The reason he gave was that budgets are passed in the fall and it would make more sense to elect new lawmakers beforehand.
Other backers have argued it would be more efficient to hold parliamentary elections on the same day as local and regional ones, which are held in September.
Critics see the shift as a bid by Mr. Putin’s allies to ensure an easier ride for the ruling party, as looming budget cuts and economic woes start to weigh on public opinion. Although Mr. Putin’s personal ratings remain high, the last parliamentary elections, in December 2011, led to mass protests against voting fraud, which posed the biggest ever public threat to his rule.