It has been described as the most boring election of 2016, a parliamentary race set for Sunday that is largely devoid of drama and unlikely to change Vladimir Putin’s Russia very much. But among the country’s citizens faith in the democratic process has never been stronger. A report published in January by the Moscow-based Levada Centre has found that 62% of Russians believe the country is truly democratic, compared with just 36% five years ago. Putin’s personal approval rating has risen to 82%, underlining just how much the Kremlin has cemented its power since 2011, when the previous parliamentary elections degenerated into the biggest protests since the fall of the Soviet Union.
In the years since, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the support of pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine has bolstered support for the Kremlin.
Opposition parties say the electoral playing field is not level, suggesting that television airtime is heavily weighted in favour of United Russia. As a result, just three parties are thought to stand a chance of getting into parliament – the Communists, the far-right Liberal Democratic party, and Fair Russia, a centre-left coalition – despite new rules designed to usher in greater political competition.
So in a country where the State Duma is described as a “Kremlin rubber stamp”, and where United Russia is expected to dominate once again, how do voters feel about the democratic process? Five people tell us why their vote matters.