09/21/2021, 10.32
RUSSIA
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Putin dominates, but election produces a few surprises

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The president's United Russia is in decline, but has managed to retain a constitutional majority in the Duma. Rise of the Communists, helped by the useful vote of the navalnists. Oppositions: online vote rigged. Claims of fraud through "Lukashenko method" in the provinces. Putin's civic list may create problems for the Tsar.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The closing of vote counting for the Duma (Lower House) elections has confirmed the victory of United Russia. With almost 50% of the vote, the Putinist party has secured the majority needed to amend the Constitution at will.

Significant progress was made by the Communists of KPRF, who came close to 20%; three other parties managed to pass the 5% barrier: the liberal-nationalists (LdPR) of the eternal Vladimir Zhirinovsky (7.5%), the anti-corruption moderates of Fair Russia (7.4%) and with 5.3% a new party, New People, created by the Putinist machine to divert opposition votes. Yabloko's liberals have disappeared from the political scene, having failed to reach even 1% of the vote.

Never before have the parliamentary elections in Russia attracted the attention of the international media. The vote came after the season of protests, repressed through the roll out of all the possible and imaginable more or less "soft" methods.

The last five legislatures of the Duma, including the newly formed one, belong to the "Putinian reign", and have always supported the absolute power of the Tsar, although in different ways.

Criticism and protests abound, especially for the introduction of online voting, the results of which appeared very contradictory and in all likelihood "tweaked". Above all, the assigning of some single-member seats in Moscow has caused a stir, where with up to 99% of the count tallied, independent candidates close to the oppositions were in the lead, including Anastasia Brjukhanova and Anastasia Udaltsova, lost when the online count was included. Through spokesman Leonid Volkov, the navalnists accused the election committee of falsifying the results in the capital and several other localities, depriving the oppositions of significant wins.

Some regional leaders loyal to Putin were re-elected with similarly controversial results. In Khabarovsk, where former governor Sergei Furgal has been in prison for months, his Kremlin-imposed acting governor was elected. Mikhail Degtarev won with 56.8% of the vote, leaving many doubts about the regularity of the count.

The super-putin president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, obtained 99.7% of the votes; Vladislav Kovalyg reached 86.8% in Tuva, the republic of Defence Minister Sergei Šojgu; similar results also in Tver and Tula.

Beyond the more or less real popularity of some of these governors, the impression is that voting transparency was not overly stringent in the provinces, where the "Lukašenko method" to impose inflated percentages could have been used, opting for at least a semblance of democracy for the Parliament.

In the new Duma, the Communists could be transformed from traditional and faithful allies of the Tsar to a point of reference for the oppositions. Part of the recovered consensus comes from the navalnista "useful vote", that had found several honest and credible personalities to oppose United Russia in the KPRF candidates.

The vote was influenced by the economic crisis, which has been going on for years also due to Western sanctions, and the catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic, still far from being overcome.

Many guarantees of the state welfare system, largely of Soviet heritage, have been weakened in recent years, starting with pension payments. Putin has tried to remedy this in recent months, promising a not very credible series of subsidies to families and weaker categories. The discontent of part of the population, however, is very evident, especially in the Siberian East regions, little considered by the Moscow centre.

A final unknown factor concerns the new New People party, led by entrepreneur Aleksej Nečaev and the popular ex-mayor of Jakutsk, Sardana Avksentieva (see photo 2). From the beginning it was described as a "civic list" invented by Kremlin techno-politicians. The problem is that it was so well thought out that it managed to enter the Duma with 13 deputies, taken from United Russia. This should not be a problem for the Putin super-majority, but New People has in its program the demand for less repressive laws, inspired by the Kremlin to attract opponents, and now could somehow be a counterpoint to the regime.

The new Duma will be in office at the time of the 2024 presidential elections; it will have to celebrate Putin's first term of office under the new Constitution (actually the fifth) and the fourth century of the Tsar, who is calculating no interference from parliament.

 

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