Russian elections: Putin loses any remaining space for manoeuvre: expert analysis

16:07 Sep. 21, 2016

Putin loses any remaining space for manoeuvre: expert analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin votes at a polling station on September 18, 2016 in Moscow, Russia(GettyImages photo)

Ukrainian political expert Alexander Khara on how Putin limits his chance to get along with the shaky victory in Duma

There's always some room for perfection… even for autocrats. Though President Putin has been efficiently controlling the previous parliament, now with an overwhelming majority in his pocket nothing can limit his desires. The old known combination of political monopoly and controlled media has secured him 82% approval with respect to his job.

Interestingly, with such high results Mr. Putin's public support and electoral results are in contradiction with people's dissatisfaction with his teammate Prime-minister Medvedev (-51%) and the Government in general (-53%). It could have been more logical to punish the biggest party and its leader Mr. Medvedev for such misfortunes as skyrocketing prices (72%), poverty and impoverishment (47%), rising unemployment (37%), corruption (31%) and economic crisis (31%).

But what if such an electoral victory is just a result of combination of access denial strategy and rigged process? It seems that the Kremlin, having failed to achieve a sterility in the political environment (a bunch of opposition candidates were filtered at the registration stage, the rest was just denied necessary access to the media), has employed a whole range of murky tools.  And Mr. Shpilkin, a Russian scientist, proves it with the mathematical calculus. He shows that the real turnover of 39% is overstated on 10% as well as results of the mighty four parties that made their way into the Parliament. Because of that plus the manipulations with the faked-up ballots the United Russia Party has received not the deserved 40% but the official 54%.

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Giving the total number of the citizens eligible to vote and taking into account the fact that we witnessed the lowest turnover in a decade (in Moscow and Saint Petersburg it was at 35,2% and 32,7%) a sort of civic protest, the ruling party is supported by only… 15% of all voters!

Anyway, the timid liberals' with hopes and dreams of the possibility that the democratic evolutionary changes of the regime have faded away. The opposition remains divided and the number of their supporters (the middle class) is not enough for partially dilution of the monopoly of those in one or another way dependent on the state budget (more than 60%). In fact, these budget dependent folks not only voted for the system to remain the same but also used by it to distort the election results.

The symbol of these elections is the YouTube celebrity – a member of a local electoral commission (usually a teacher because polling stations are stationed at schools) that throw a pack of faked-up ballots in the ballot box under the cover of other miserable, fearful and depended civil servants whose fear of the authorities outweighs their morality and understanding of the criminal character of such an action.

As to the international community, the results of the elections were generally accepted with numerous reservations on the shortcomings and irregularities on the mainland and non-recognition of "elections" in the annexed Crimean Peninsula (recognized as a Russian territory only by Russia itself and 10 other friendly countries).

The Ukrainian Parliament took an even more far-reaching decision not to recognise the legitimacy of a new Duma at all. And there's legal ground for that. Firstly, there's a Crimean part not just in a single member mandate but as well as in the parties' one. Secondly, several de jure Ukrainian citizens were elected to the State Duma and an overwhelming number of Ukrainian citizens were monitoring and voting, that is the blatant violation of the Russian Constitution and laws. All of this is a result of the military occupation of the Ukrainian territory and unlawful mandatory conversion of the Ukrainian citizens in Crimea into the Russian ones. It hasn't been seen since the Middle Ages when a land was routinely acquired with all habitants of it…

As a result, the citizens do not believe their voices are being heard (62% do not expect any changes in their life after the election) and are not ready to protest (78% think it unlikely). However, they would love to have the composition of the Duma changed (significantly - 43%, completely - 27%).

Read also Lowest turnout ever at Russian parliamentary elections (infographics)

Having forced political contest from the public domain (transparency and accountability), the Kremlin will get splits and conflicts of interests within the bureaucracy and the key parties' stakeholders.

Thus, the Russian people should not hope for a change of policy and a revival of the economic life. On the contrary, keeping in mind the crucial 2018 presidential race the Kremlin will strengthen its control over the repressive machine (in addition to the establishment of the National Guard, there are plans to create a monster like Minister of State Security), bolster its interference in economy and squeeze any remaining freedoms, as well as fighting "enemies" within the country and beyond its borders.

As per Ukraine, it will remain at risk until the entire structure has not fully exhausted its resources and will begin to collapse under its own weight.

This election is no more than the loss of the remnants of an already limited space for manoeuvre.

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