In Moscow there have been fewer election posters and banners on view than in previous years. Last week one Russian newspaper joked that the Duma election had been classified “Top Secret”, since voters did not know the names of the candidates. And yet, in theory, this election should have been more exciting than previous polls. A change to the law has permitted more parties to participate than in 2011 and even a handful of Kremlin critics have been allowed to run.
What’s more, this time half of the 450 Russian MPs will be elected – not by party lists – but in single-mandate districts: the return to a system in which Russians can vote for a candidate of their choice in their own constituency. However, the timing of this vote has kept public interest low. The Duma election had been scheduled for December. Instead the authorities brought it forward by three months, closer to the summer. As a result, Russians have been more concerned with holidays, harvesting fruits and vegetables on their allotments and preparing for the new school year than with electing a new Duma.
President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev visit fishermen during the Duma election campaign But why the date change? How might the Kremlin benefit from a September, rather than a December, vote?
Kremlin critics claim the aim was to ensure that urban populations – traditionally, more critical of the government – had less time in which to mobilise for the election. A lower turnout is widely believed to benefit the ruling party.
President Putin will want the new Duma to be just as pro-Kremlin as previous incarnations. Even if the party of power – United Russia – fails to achieve an outright majority, the three other main “systemic opposition” parties (the Communists, Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party) should secure enough support to ensure the Duma remains, to a large extent, a Kremlin rubber stamp.
Full Article: Russia’s election and the need for legitimacy – BBC News.