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Parliamentary Elections in Russia

Russians trust Putin

Some say, that these elections are a farewell-elections — Putin is leaving president’s chair and he just needed a support to feel free to leave this position. «Unified Russia» in its campaign always pointed out: «It’s not election, it’s referendum if you trust Putin or not». The «referendum» showed that people generally trust Putin and he can leave now

By ALEXEY SIDORENKO
from Moscow, RUSSIA

Vladimir Putin, Russian PresidentOne of the most important results of the Russian Legislative Election held on December 2, is almost absolute victory of the party «Unified Russia» (64.24%) — a party-of-power was leaded on these elections by president of the country Vladimir Putin. Putin decided to lead the party in October 2007 which helped the party to get such success.

Although not only president’s support helped Unified Russia to achieve such high results leaving next to win party CPRF (Communist party of Russian Federation) with only 12%. New electoral laws as well as questionable election practices brought this hegemony of Unified Russia. So what was new in these elections? This legislative election had 4 main features, that distinguished it from the previous:

— 7% barrier for the parties to get into the parliament. All the votes for the parties that got less than 7% go to the parties winner. Consequence — only four parties will get to the Russian Parliament after this election: Unified Russia, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Just Russia.

— All the deputies were elected by party lists. There was no chance for independent deputies to get into the parliament this time. This feature existed in all previous elections since 1991.

— OSCE observers didn’t participate in the election monitoring. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply delayed receipt of an invitation. After month of waiting for invitations director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights at OSCE Urdur Gunnarsdottir said that that ODIHR is unable to monitor these elections.

— Party of power «Unified Russia» refused to take part in pre-electoral debates. The party officials posted it like this: «People should trust deeds, not words. We don’t want to bullshit people we will better do something useful». Never before, the party of power didn’t refuse to participate in debate. On this election, party decided not to bother their officials with «bla-bla-bla».

Who is in the Parliament?

Unified Russia (Centrist): Centrist party officially leaded by Boris Gryzlov (speaker of the fourth Russian Duma and previous ministry of internal affairs) is considered to be the party of power. The party appeared from the two parties of power (Edinstvo -Putin, Shoigu and others and Otechestvo-vsya Rossia — Primakov, Luzhkov, Shaimiev) after Duma elections in 1999. After merge they always stated that they’re Putin’s party although Putin never entered the party as a member. The main slogan of this campaign: «Putin’s plan — victory of Russia».

CPRF (Leftist): Communist party of the Russian Federation — is one of the oldest parties in Russia. After Communist party of Soviet Union was banned by Boris Yeltsin in 1991, it had to re-register under a new name. Chairman of the party — Gennadiy Zyuganov. Party was most powerful in 1996 when they almost won presidential elections. On these elections they’ve got 12%. In 1990s they were widely supported in the conservative rural areas — analysts even found a Red Belt — vast number of regions where communists were taking over party of power. In late 2000s their electoral support declined and moved mainly to the big cities.

LDPR (Populist Centrist): Liberal-Democratic party of the Russian Federation — populist party with the charismatic leader — veteran of Russian politics Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Zhirinovsky is famous for his rather inadequate proposals, like «Let’s bomb Tbilisi instead of Iraq» (to George Bush at the beginning of the Iraqi campaign). Main ideology of the party has evolved a lot from resurrection of the Russian Empire to the defense of the interests of ethnic Russian population. Analysts say that LDPR is totally controlled from the Kremlin and never voted against the party of power. Main audience of LDPR — people with criminal past (or present). Main slogans: «We’re for the Russians, we’re for the poor», «Not to lie and not to be afraid».

A Just Russia (Leftist Centrist): A just Russia appeared from the merge of three different parties: Party of Pensioners, Russian Party of Life, «Motherland». The party is leaded by Sergey Mironov, head of the Federation Council, close friend of Vladimir Putin. The merge was initiated by the Kremlin and during 2006 there was a wide-spread opinion that A Just Russia will be a second party of power and will help to form a fully controlled parliament. In 2007, however, things changed and the party got just enough votes to get to the parliament.

The main results of the elections

People laugh — there are only two winners in these elections: Vladimir Putin and Eduard Limonov. After this election lots of professional politicians had to leave big politics — they’re unemployed at the present moment. Where will they go now? There’s a high possibility that unable to fight on the scene of the parliament they will try to search for a street support. And that may contain risks for the whole political system.

Some say, that these elections are a farewell-elections — Putin is leaving president’s chair and he just needed a support to feel free to leave this position. «Unified Russia» in its campaign always pointed out: «It’s not election, it’s referendum if you trust Putin or not». The «referendum» showed that people generally trust Putin and he can leave now.

Russia didn’t became more democratic after these elections. The elections proved that it’s political system is getting worse and worse in terms of democracy and public representation.

Liberal parties (SPS and Yabloko) were deadly defeated. None of them didn’t pass 7% barrier on this election. None of them didn’t pass other important marks. 4% — when the central electoral commission gives back $2.5 mln of electoral deposit (that is needed to register a party), and even 3% — to receive funding from the state (according to the law parties can have state funding if they receive more than 3%). That was the result of a dominating media-campaign where liberal politics of the 90-s were presented as thiefs and spies of the Western countries.

All the parties in Duma generally support Kremlin’s politics. The differences may be found only on small, secondary issues. There are no political parties in Duma that would question or oppose contemporary course of the executive branch.



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