The thrilling spectacles offered by the U.S. presidential election, the U.K. referendum on leaving the European Union and even Austria’s cliffhanger presidential vote have overshadowed an election campaign in Russia, which will get a new parliament on Sept. 18. That’s because, even though they have all the the trappings of democracy, the Russian elections are mostly theater, whose actors are shadows from the country’s brief experiment with competitive politics. In theory, the elections shouldn’t be boring. The previous ones, in 2011, gave rise to the most meaningful and vigorous protests against Vladimir Putin’s corrupt system of his more than 15 years in power. Then, tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest what they saw as the falsification of vote results: Statistical analysis suggested that United Russia, the pro-Putin party, owed its majority to widespread ballot-stuffing. It even appeared briefly that the Kremlin — occupied then by Putin’s stand-in, Dmitri Medvedev — was unsettled enough to change a few things. Gubernatorial elections, which had been abolished, were allowed again, and the authorities took care to make voting more transparent for the 2012 presidential election, organizing a live video feed from every polling station and making sure not to obstruct observers’ work. Putin, however, saw the protests as a U.S.-inspired threat of a revolution like the one would shake Ukraine in 2013-2014. As soon as his third presidential term began — after he pulled off an undeniable electoral triumph — he started tightening the screws, using the parliament — the State Duma — to pass legislation that sharply limited the freedoms of assembly and expression. The chamber came to be known as an “amok printer” because of the speed at which it spewed out repressive laws.
In September, this Duma will be replaced by a new one, and if there’s any vote-rigging, it will be much harder to notice than in 2011. Putin doesn’t want to be accused of cheating. He wants a clear, convincing victory and a parliament filled with loyalists or representatives of tried and tested parties that have long traded any principles for the benefits of official recognition, public funding and a chance to make money from industry lobbyists. And that is exactly what Putin will get, despite some rather cynical attempts to make the race look real.
Earlier this year, United Russia held what it called “primaries” to determine the list of people who would run in the actual election. The party said 10.5 million people took part, even though the results of the mock election weren’t binding and the party hierarchy — meaning the Kremlin — determined the final list of candidates. Russia even has its own prediction market, set up by a pro-Kremlin polling service; United Russia is the favorite, of course.
Full Article: Russia Has the Most Boring Election of 2016 – Bloomberg View.