The Sunday September 18 election for the Russian parliament has given Vladimir Putin another pro-Putin parliament (Duma) to routinely rubber-stamp his most ludicrous and repressive legislation. His United Russia party gained a majority (54 percent according to preliminary results). No opposition party crossed the five percent hurdle; instead, the reliable Communist (13 percent), Liberal Democrat (13 percent), and Just Russia Parties (6 percent) will join United Russia in the new Duma. Only sixteen candidates from the so-called small parties gained seats in regional parliaments. In a word: The Duma election was a total wipeout of legislative opposition in Putin’s Russia. This is no big deal in itself because the legislative branch has little power, but the election signaled the end of hope for change through elections in Russia. Palace coups or the streets are the only remaining options of the Russian people.
Unlike the fraudulent December 2011 Duma election that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the streets chanting “Russia without Putin,” the September 18 election had the appearance of propriety. The head of the Central Electoral Commission, a respected human rights activist, Ella Pamfilova, conceded that the election was conducted largely without incident with only three regions in which electoral violations were reported. She does not expect any major challenge to the preliminary results as a consequence of electoral fraud.
A smirking Vladimir Putin interpreted his party’s victory as a rebuke to foreign pressure and sanctions. My interpretation is quite different: The electoral victory came through Putin’s control of electoral resources and his repressive threats against opposition candidates and their voters. “Administrative measures” overcame declining public support for a government that has given the Russian people three years of recession, sharp drops in living standards, and neglect of its key constituency of retired persons and government employees.
Before being declared a “foreign agent,” the respected Levada Center found that Putin’s United Russia’s approval rating had dropped to 30 percent. Thus, United Russia’s 54 percent of the vote came as a surprise, to say the least. The difference between the 54 and 30 percent is a rough measure of the effectiveness to which Putin deployed administrative measures against opposition parties.
Full Article: Putin Puts An End To Electoral Politics In Russia.