President Vladmir Putin’s political party, United Russia, has been dominating the electoral field during the past few months. But, despite its control over media outlets, laws which curtail opportunities for other political parties to elect members of the Duma, the electorate appears to have an overwhelming boredom with the entire process. United Russia was garnering 57% of potential votes in October, but now its numbers are down to about 44%. The ironic aspect of this decline is that competitive parties are not gaining additional votes, people appear to be indifferent. They are probably tired of inflation and the lack of competition in a vote dominated by one party. A party must gain at least 7% of the vote in order to qualify to have any of its members elected to the Duma. As of this point, it appears only the Communist party will reach that number.
President Putin lacks trust in the Russian people and thus has stacked laws to prevent opposition parties from electing members to the Duma. Ironically, in so doing, he has made the election boring and irrelevant to most Russians. Why develop an interest when the entire process is arranged so United Russia will eventually win.
Russia will employ a new proportional system of voting which allows regional areas to have greater voice in the new parliament. A Russian province, in some cases, is as large geographically as a European nation so it is difficult for smaller parties to identify candidates who are known throughout the province. Putin’s United Russia party is already off and running with 600 candidates listed to run for positions. Putin controls the media which, in effect, makes for difficulty in opposition candidates gaining access to television and presenting their ideas to a wider audience. Putin has stacked the deck to ensure the United Russia party and candidates will be known to voters. Putin eliminated election of provincial governors which allowed him to name those officials. He is now having provincial governors listed as candidates for election to the Duma. Any governor who Putin doesn’t like is being “blacklisted” so his name will not appear on the list of candidates.
Russia, which was on the road to becoming a democratic nation in the 1990s, is slowly being transformed into a one party operation. A few opposition candidates will win seats in the Duma for show purposes. Putin is the man in charge for now, and for the coming years.