On 10 September, Russia faces another election. In some places, the vote is for municipal councils, in others for regional ones; two regions are holding by-elections for the State Duma (some single-seat district representatives have resigned for various reasons). Importantly, sixteen regions will be electing their governors. Since spring, political analysts have been predicting that two in particular (Buryatia and the Sverdlovsk Oblast) will see a real struggle with an uncertain outcome. In other regions, it seemed as though victory for the Kremlin’s candidates was far from assured. Such predictions did not appear unfounded.
In 2004, direct elections for Russia’s regional governors were abolished. The decision was linked to the war on terror in general and Beslan terrorist attack in particular, although to this day no one has explained exactly how stripping citizens of the right to elect the heads of their own regions helps to fight terrorism. Until 2012, governors were appointed by the president, who proposed candidates for approval by regional parliaments. Because all regional parliaments were controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, there were no unpleasant surprises.
In 2012, following a wave of protests after the obvious falsification of parliamentary election results, direct elections of governors were reinstated, with one important caveat that made it all but impossible for opposition candidates to contest the post. This was the so-called “municipal filter”, which meant candidates had to secure a certain number of signatures from municipal council deputies (between five and ten per cent of the total number of deputies). This threshold can only be cleared by United Russia representatives (i.e. the Kremlin’s handpicked candidates) because the ruling party usually has the majority of seats in municipal councils. In some regions, the Communist Party also has a significant number of municipal deputies.
Full Article: Russia’s elections that weren’t | openDemocracy.