Moscow, new Duma begins work: it could be the last one elected
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Putin regime wants to exploit the legislature to shelter institutions from dissent. More restrictions on the oppositions are expected. Goal to extend the use of electronic voting, more manipulable from above. Radical proposal: replace elections with referendums confirming who is in power.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The first session of the new Russian State Duma opens on September 29, with organizational tasks in the choice of speaker and new parliamentary leaders. After the presidential greetings and the ritual fulfillments, already from October the deputies will be called to a very intense legislative activity.

The outcome of the elections has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Russia's leaders, confirming their power, but also revealing a growing impatience. The intention is therefore to take advantage of the five-year period ahead to strengthen the institutions, sheltering them from any form of dissent. Already in the first weeks the government will deliver the draft of the financial law for the biennium 2022-2024, to be elaborated at federal and regional level.

At least twenty legislative proposals will be put on the agenda, starting with those related to the economy and social issues: the ban on withdrawing money directly from debtors' accounts, allowing parents of disabled children to stay free of charge in hospital with their children, up to fines for failure to respect the rights of animals. In general, the fear is that in the smokescreen of all these initiatives they want to impose a strong squeeze on the economy of the country, in crisis for years.

To avoid future surprises and electoral uncertainties, the cards will continue to be shuffled in the voting system.  The Putin regime wants to prevent what is defined as "foreign interference" through the support of "extremist groups" such as those of Aleksej Naval'nyj and information sources less aligned with the "party of power". The much-discussed electronic voting, which appears to be more manipulable from above, will most likely be extended to elections at all levels, including presidential ones. At the same time, the Kremlin will impose more systematic restrictions on IT giants, whose access to the Russian network will be subject to greater controls.

Another measure that is already being discussed is the passage to an almost completely majority and uninominal electoral system, in order to take away the importance of parties and their percentages, even if the absolute majority is firmly in the hands of the Putinists. The most radical proposal could be the elimination of elections, to be replaced with simple referendums of confirmation of the regime and its representatives, given that the population has not shown great interest in the challenge of electoral lists.

The few voices of dissent, relegated almost entirely outside the parliamentary halls, speak instead of initiatives to repeal electronic voting. A human rights activist, Marina Litvinovič (see photo 2), has proposed to create a coalition of all opponents "to prevent millions of votes of the citizens of our country from being stolen as in these elections", and to fight against any other form of falsification of results. A series of public demonstrations has also been announced, with dates all to be defined.

In order not to be immediately blocked by the police, given that almost any form of demonstration is now forbidden in Russia, Litvinovich proposes to use "the only form of meeting still possible: that of the elected deputies with their voters". She herself, a candidate for the liberals, did not get the seat, but several communist deputies of the KPRF have declared their willingness to hold such meetings, open to citizens.

2022 will provide teh occassion for other important elections  in Russia, especially at the municipal level, and many fear that they may be the last elections of the Putin era.

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