The authorities have bumped up State Duma elections from December to September 2016 as nonchalantly as if they were merely doing a routine oil change on their car. It is obvious to everyone that the Kremlin administration made this decision, reasoning that the ruling authorities could achieve a stronger win in September before everyone has returned from summer vacation than in cold and gloomy December. The shorter time frame will make it more difficult for the opposition to mount a serious campaign, and the traditionally low voter turnout in fall will work to the advantage of the authorities, who can more easily mobilize their administrative resources. Many political analysts maintain that the ruling authorities will also benefit from the fact that half of the Duma deputies come from single-seat districts. According to the rules, such candidates are not required to state their party affiliation.
In districts where the ruling regime is unpopular, they can, for example, align themselves with the All-Russia People’s Front, an organization that is not a political party and cannot take part in elections, but that serves as a convenient cover for a candidate’s true affiliation with United Russia.
The Duma’s so-called “opposition” parties that the Kremlin keeps in its back pocket dutifully agreed to the changes to their political life that were imposed from above, with the exception of a few “upstart” Communists who made the futile but valiant effort to shift the elections to October rather than September.
No one is particularly worried that the Constitution forbids this little shell game because it clearly states that “The Duma is elected for five years” — and one year still has 365 days, even in Russia.