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Russia - Dumea Election - 2021

Russia’s next parliamentary election is coming in 2021, the first following updates to the constitution granting more powers to elected MPs across a number of issues. According to new laws, the State Duma now makes more decisions regarding the formation of the government, with the ability to select the prime minister and deputy prime ministers.

The Russian Federation has a highly centralized, authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin. The bicameral Federal Assembly consists of a directly elected lower house (State Duma) and an appointed upper house (Federation Council), both of which lack independence from the executive. The 2016 State Duma elections and the 2018 presidential election were marked by accusations of government interference and manipulation of the electoral process, including the exclusion of meaningful opposition candidates.

Significant human rights issues included: extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; pervasive torture by government law enforcement personnel that sometimes resulted in death and occasionally involved sexual violence or punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; severe arbitrary interference with privacy; severe suppression of freedom of expression and media, including the use of “antiextremism” and other laws to prosecute peaceful dissent; violence against journalists; blocking and filtering of internet content and banning of online anonymity; severe suppression of the right of peaceful assembly; severe suppression of freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organizations”; severe restrictions of religious freedom; refoulement of refugees; severe limits on participation in the political process, including restrictions on opposition candidates’ ability to seek public office and conduct political campaigns, and on the ability of civil society to monitor election processes; widespread corruption at all levels and in all branches of government; coerced abortion and sterilization; trafficking in persons; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence against persons with disabilities, LGBTI persons, and members of ethnic minorities.

Authorities sought to restrict the work of independent election monitors and promote government-sponsored monitoring. Observers were prohibited from being accredited to more than one polling station, limiting the ability of civil society to monitor elections. Critics contended that the law made it difficult for domestic election monitors to conduct surprise inspections due to provisions requiring observers to register with authorities, including the polling station they intended to monitor, three days before elections. Burdensome registration regulations also hampered the work of journalists wishing to monitor elections as well as independent or nonpartisan groups, whose monitors registered as journalists for their affiliated publications.

The process for nominating candidates for office was highly regulated and placed significant burdens on opposition candidates and political parties. While parties represented in the State Duma may nominate a presidential candidate without having to collect and submit signatures, prospective self-nominated presidential candidates must collect 300,000 signatures, no more than 7,500 from each region, and submit the signatures to the Central Electoral Commission for certification. Nominees from parties without State Duma representation must collect 100,000 signatures. An independent candidate is ineligible to run if the commission finds more than 5 percent of signatures invalid.

Candidates to the State Duma may be nominated directly by constituents, by political parties in single-mandate districts, by political parties on their federal list, or may be self-nominated. Political parties select candidates for the federal lists from their ranks during party conventions via closed voting procedures. Party conventions also select single mandate candidates. Only political parties that overcame the 5-percent threshold during the previous elections may form federal and single mandate candidate lists without collecting signatures, while parties that did not must collect 200,000 signatures to register a candidate. Self-nominated candidates generally must gather the signatures of 3 percent of the voters in their districts.

2020 saw all political players in Russia getting ready for the 2021 parliamentary election. They will choose and test new electoral strategies, technologies, practices and communication models. All political forces will search for new faces because Unified Election Day 2020 will prove to be a dress rehearsal for the State Duma election.

Director of the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research Dmitry Badovsky believes that "2020 will be a busy year for Russian politics in terms of ideology." "The authorities will seek to take advantage of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Soviet Union’s Victory [over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War] and the fight against attempts to falsify history in a bid to unite society," he added.

A proposal to hold the early presidential election in September 2020 was voiced in Russian State Duma. The author of the corresponding idea is leader of the Communist Party Gennadiy Zyuganov, Interfax reported 14 January 2020. "In September, I do not exclude that there may be early presidential elections," Zyuganov said at the Russia-2024: Left Turn or National Disaster conference. He announced the holding of a forum of national-patriotic forces in late January - early February, at which a government of public confidence will be formed and a common program will be developed for participation in parliamentary and possible early presidential elections.

The main points about the resignation of the government and the upcoming constitutional amendments include a vote (or referendum) on the adoption of constitutional amendments. The Apostolaki channel notes that, in fact, it can be held on March 18, 2020, and in the autumn of 2020 the State Duma elections will be held and the new Duma will appoint a new government. The new US president will already be known at this point.

Media Technologist notes that the new prime minister will become the successor and the new president (however, if the referendum is held in the spring, the new prime minister will be a technical figure, and we will find out the name of the real successor in the winter, after the State Duma elections). The channel "Master Pen" expressed the opinion that Putin is a Russian ayatollah, and the new prime minister will be a technical figure like Fradkov.

The number of people expressing trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin fell to a little over one-third (35%) in January 2020, down by 4 points compared to September 2019 according to a new poll by independent pollster the Levada Center. Trust in Putin slipped in the past few years as Russia’s economy and real incomes lost ground. However, Putin’s personal popularity remained at a whopping 68% according to Levada. Trust is down from a high in November 2017, when the confidence rating in the president was 59%; over the past two years, it has almost halved, falling by 24 points. Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu moved up to 19%, just behind Putin himself, whereas the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was reappointed for his 16th year in the job during the recent government reshuffle, maintained his third place, but saw his popularity increase slightly to 17% from 14% in September 2019, when the last poll was run. Possibly “anyone is better than Medvedev” sentiments probably play a role here too as Medvedev was always deeply unpopular.

As with nearly all of Russia’s elections in recent years, the voting took place within the constraints of what an architect of President Vladimir Putin’s political system once famously called “managed democracy.” In some cases opposition parties were repeatedly denied registration. On 27 May 2020, authorities denied opposition leader Aleksey Navalny’s application to register a political party for the ninth time in six years, a decision that observers believed was politically motivated. Opposition politicians often faced violence and threats.

In Khabarovsk in the Far East of Russia, there were some rare protests taking place against Moscow. These are down to the fact that the Kremlin removed its governor over criminal charges dating back to the 2000s. The governor was originally elected from an opposition platform with possible ties to the Russian leadership. Despite the distance between the two, it appears that a common cause joins protesters in Belarus and Russia’s Far East against the Putin-Lukashenko axis, because thry were united by the same thing: the right to vote and take part in honest elections.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. The 44-year-old Kremlin critic and protest leader fell ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow on 20 August 2020, after which his plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk. He was hospitalized before being flown to Berlin for treatment at the city's Charite Hospital.

Authorities continued to engage in a pattern of harassment, including threats of violence, against Navalny and his supporters. On July 24, a district court in Moscow sentenced Navalny to 30 days in jail for encouraging Muscovites to participate in an unsanctioned protest. Several municipal deputy candidates linked to Navalny faced threats and obstacles from unidentified persons and claimed that government officials did not intervene.

In several dozen of the country's 85 regions, Russians voted 13 September 2020 for regional governors and lawmakers in regional and city legislatures as well as in several by-elections for national MPs. The polls came a year ahead of parliamentary elections and were seen as a test for the Kremlin, as the ruling party faces sinking popularity and simmering public anger over economic woes. Some of the highest-profile campaigns had taken place in Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, and neighbouring Tomsk. Allies of poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said they had secured city council seats in Siberia as independent monitors condemned a reported "stream" of voting irregularities in regional polls. The independent election monitor group Golos said it had received a "stream of reports of ballot stuffing and officials switching ballot papers cast by real voters for ones they had filled in.

Opposition wins came outside of the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, whose electorates tend to be more liberal than in Russian regions. And the wins involved what’s known in Russia as the “non-systemic opposition” -- a complicated nomenclature that describes opposition forces that operate without the Kremlin’s tacit approval. In Tomsk, United Russia won the most votes but lost its majority in the city council, while two allies of the stricken opposition politician -- Ksenia Fadeyeva and Andrei Fateyev -- won seats, according to preliminary results. In Novosibirsk, another Siberian city known for its academic and scientific community, another Navalny ally, Sergei Boiko, was on track to win a city council seat there.

In Tomsk’s 37-seat city legislature, despite the showing from Navalny’s allies, United Russia ended up dominant, with more than 24 percent of the vote, but its number of seats dropped to just 11, according to early results, down from 21. Similarly in Novosibirisk, where United Russia’s share of seats fell to 22 seats, down from 33. United Russia lost its majority in Tambov’s legislature as well.

United Russia’s popularity ratings have never been lower. Navalny can claim much of the credit for that, having first popularized the phrase “Party of Crooks and Thieves” to describe United Russia in 2012, and then hammered the party ever since. Stagnant wages, controversial pension reforms, and tax hikes have also hurt the party’s standing among Russian voters. But first results on September 14 showed United Russia victorious in all 18 gubernatorial races; in some regions, Tatarstan, Komi, and Kamchatka, results showed landslide victories for United Russia candidates. That was also true in Irkutsk, an industrial Siberian city near Lake Baikal.

At least 16 parties were set to participate in the 2021 election as new factions look to shake up the status quo, which has been dominated by three groups for almost two decades. Russia’s two largest opposition parties, the Communists and the LDPR, have been led by Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky since 1993 and 1992 respectively. Both men are now in their 70s, and it is expected that they will soon need to pass on the baton.

Political parties with local representation no longer need to collect a long list of signatures to participate in federal elections and, therefore, could pose an extra challenge to the current “traditional, established” factions.

In September 2020, it was revealed that three new parties had been added to the previous list of 13 eligible for national elections. ‘New People’, ‘Green Alternative’, and ‘For Truth’ all received the required five percent of the vote in at least one region. Parties that did not qualify in this manner have to collect 200,000 signatures. One of those is ‘Russia Without Corruption’, founded on December 15 by Roman Putin, the first cousin once-removed of the president.

The pro-Navalnyi demonstrations that occurred in some 80 cities at Navalnyi’s call was probably the most massive since 2013, with perhaps as many as 40,000 attending nationwide, 15-20,000 in Moscow and nearly as many in St. Petersburg. People even showe up in the streets in Yakutsk, where the temperature was minus 50 [degrees Celsius]. More than 3,200 protesters had been reportedly detained across Russia by 23 January 2021 after taking part in rallies that included many young people. The demonstrators called for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested after returning to the country from Germany on January 17. Navalny is believed to have been poisoned last August with a toxic nerve agent used in chemical weapons. He received treatment in Germany.

Around 40,000 people gathered in Moscow on 23 January 2021. The authorities said the rally was unauthorized. Some of the participants were detained. An independent human rights group says at least 3,200 people were detained in more than 110 cities and towns. That's believed to be the largest number of people detained in demonstrations in Russia in recent years.

A survey by a non-governmental organization found that 40 percent of the protesters had taken part in a demonstration for the first time and many of them were in their 20s or 30s. A woman in her 20s who was at a rally in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok says she couldn't accept that the authorities had detained Navalny. Navalny and his team hoped to garner more support from younger generations to increase the pressure on the Russian government.

Mark Episkopos, national security reporter for the National Interest, wrote that the protests "reaffirm what has been true since the 2011 Bolotnaya Square protests, when National Bolsheviks, monarchists, communists, anarchists, LGBT activists, far-eastern separatists, and an assortment of self-proclaimed liberals joined forces in a makeshift bid to expel Putin from the Kremlin. There is no singular “opposition” for Washington to support—no unified alternative ideology, least of all one palatable to the West, to replace the current Russian state and institutions."

Officials with the rank of “managers” were not allowed to hold office beyond the age of 70. The State Duma gave priority to the presidential initiative to abolish the 70-year deadline for the country's high-ranking officials. Putin sent the corresponding bill to the deputies on January 2021. The explanatory note indicates "in some cases, it becomes necessary to extend the term for the most experienced and highly qualified managers even after they reach the specified age." Some high-ranking official from among those who are included in the presidential nomenclature approached the age limit. Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev turned 70 in July 2021, while FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov was due to reach 70 in November 2021. next to Putin there is also Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose 70th birthday was held in March 2020. In principle, the situation with Lavrov, it seems, had already been resolved on the basis of other laws - for example, on the diplomatic service.

Russian police detained more than 5,300 people across the country in a massive clampdown on anti-Kremlin protests, as prosecutors backed a request to imprison opposition leader Alexey Navalny. OVD Info, which monitors arrests at opposition protests, said on 01 February 2021 more than 5,300 people had been detained, including nearly 1,800 people in Moscow and almost 1,200 in Saint Petersburg, Russia's second city. The protests that witnessed a rare lockdown of Moscow center came ahead of Navalny's court hearing which could see him imprisoned for several years. Russian police gave protesters electric shocks and beatings and grabbed bystanders off the streets. Russian police had been brutal in their response to anti-Kremlin demonstrators in the past, but their methods this time reached a new level. There were significantly fewer people and many more police than last week. The streets were cordoned off, there were rows of law enforcement officers and scattered groups of people.

Living standards are at their lowest for a decade; issues with acute local impacts, from refuse disposal to municipal services, remain fundamentally unsolved; unemployment is a serious fear. Corruption – Navalny’s mobilising cause – remains a core national concern (in the most recent Levada tracking survey, 38% identified it as one of their greatest worries). Putin's system is carefully designed precisely to make politics as irrelevant as possible. Independent polls in November 2020 showed that only 2 percent of Russians were prepared to vote for Navalny in a presidential election. By late January, that had risen to 5 percent.

Navalny started out as a conventional Russian liberal who joined the liberal Russian party Yabloko. Liberalism never really appealed to a majority of Russians, and Yabloko attracted few voters. Navalny later promoted some rather ugly xenophobic and chauvinistic messages. Increasingly, Navalny focused on the corruption of the Putin regime.

The leader of the reformist Yabloko, Grigory Yavalinsky, denounced opposition activist Alexei Navalny 06 February 2021. After making some unsavoury comments about the Putin ‘regime’, Yavlinsky condemned Navalny’s tactic of endless street protests, saying that they couldn’t possibly overthrow the government and would only lead to more repression. Russian liberals are divided, with several parties competing for what is already a small share of the vote. Rather than uniting the opposition, it would seem that Navalny’s return to Russia served to split them into even smaller fragments. After two weekends of demonstrations, Navalny’s deputy Leonid Volkov called them off. Volkov embarked on a new strategy, y to mobilize Western states to impose more sanctions on Russia, seeming to endorse the Kremlin’s claim that Navalny was in the pay of the West.

As of January 2021, the percentage of people satisfied with their standard of living dropped to 77% compared to 86% in December 2020. The share of those confident about the future dropped to 50% compared to 63% in December 2020. The general level of protest activity among the Russian public in late 2020 and in January 2021 remained rather low.

Stepan Goncharov, a sociologist at Levada-Center, noted in February 2021, "A common theme ascribed to the protesters is that they are paid by protest organizers. Who could be paying for mass disturbances and riots, according to opinions in Russia? It must be either the oligarchs disaffected with the powers that be (there are already several such oligarchs), or foreign powers, namely the governments of western countries. Many people don’t believe that things would be better if Navalny’s team came to power. The appetites of the current elites, so the theory goes, are already satiated; new elites would plunder even more energetically.... Navalny focuses on the most scandalous element – corruption in the upper echelons. The Russian population has no illusions about its government. Navalny only proves what many had suspected long ago (or wanted not to think). In raising the issue pointblank, Navalny has positioned himself as the personal rival of the president. The situation today follows a distinct formula. Navalny supporters are people tired of Putin. Navalny’s opponents are people afraid of the drastic changes inherent in a regime change."

The most likely scenario for Russia's parliamentary election is that four parties will remain in the State Duma, Vedomosti wrote March 9, 2021, citing a report released by the Agency for Political and Economic Communications. The agency's experts believed that there were four possible scenarios for the upcoming parliamentary campaign. According to the first one, the ruling United Russia party will retain a constitutional majority, and the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the A Just Russia party will also enter parliament. The second scenario envisions that a fifth party - a smaller one - will also make it into the legislature, while United Russia will teeter on the brink of a majority. Under the third scenario, the A Just Russia party will fail to enter parliament, and there will be only three parliamentary parties, with United Russia retaining the majority. A multi-party legislature is the most unlikely scenario, where two smaller parties pass the threshold to make it into the State Duma.

The reason the status quo is the most likely to continue is that at least five parties are capable of passing the five percent threshold, thereby stepping up competition among them. The agency’s Director General Dmitry Orlov, who is a member of United Russia’s Supreme Council, noted"This is why the odds are that independent votes will be scattered among these parties".

The likelihood of any scenario will depend on who leads United Russia in the election, political scientist Alexei Makarkin pointed out. "If the president tops the party’s election list, then three to four parties will enter the State Duma. The election will be reminiscent of a plebiscite and everyone will focus on supporting United Russia," the expert predicted. However, if the president is not number one on the list, there will be several options, Makarkin noted. "The first one is that the Duma will remain a four-party parliament. And the second option is that a new party will enter the Duma," the political commentator concluded.

According to the VTsIOM [All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre] information from 16 May 2021. "If the vote had taken place today, "30.4% of voters would have cast ballots for United Russia, 12.1% for the Communist Party, 10.5% for the LDPR, 7.7% for A Just Russia and 11.5% for all non-parliamentary parties." According to the survey, 72.2% of voters intended to vote, and 60.7% would vote for four "system parties". Now the correction factor of "system votes" can be entered, based on the fact that 60.7% of voters will determine 100% of the deputies.

With these rating, United Russia would receive 50.7% of seats, the Communist Party 20%, the LDPR 17.5% and A Just Russia 13%. This is the case with the election of 225 deputies by party lists according to the survey. But observers expected a turnout of not 72.2%, but below 50%, which favored United Russia: their voters are more stable. United Russia usually shows a stronger result than in the lists in single-seat constituencies, so they would be guaranteed more than 60% of deputies in the Duma.

The legacy Duma had 336 United Russia members (74.6%), the Communist Party has 43 deputies (9.5%), the LDPR 40 (8.9%), A Just Russia 23 (5%). Sociologists believed that in a situation of socio-economic stagnation, these three parties woul;d improve their results, United Russia would worsen, but the ratio would remain the same: more than half of the Duma will be "bears". The mystery on 19 September 2021 was only whether United Russia would retain a constitutional majority of 300 deputies.

The Communist Party / LDPR / A Just Russia opposition is peculiar. These "system parties" are equally loyal to the president. A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov ran for president in 2004 and 2012, but in his speeches he campaigned more for Putin than for himself, and in 2018 he simply became Putin's confidant. LDPR leader Zhirinovsky, in his characteristic style, declared many times that Russia "needs a Tsar" and "gave this title" to Putin. And even Communist Party of the Russian Federation leader Zyuganov never opposed the president. He criticized the socio-economic course of the government (both the LDPR and the A Just Russia do this), but he did not transfer his criticism to the head of state. The leaders of the parliamentary parties unequivocally support Russia's foreign policy, and most importantly, they fully share the conservative and protective ideology of the state.

The speeches of the leaders of the parliamentary parties (here the differences between the Communist Party-LDPR-A Just Russia are rather stylistic) as a rule, they are tougher towards the United States, NATO and the West than the position of the Kremlin, the Russian government, the Foreign Ministry and even the United Russia government party. This is the traditional division of roles and verbal genres between officials and "representatives of public opinion."

But then there are quite significant "nuances." There are inevitable organisational and corporate clashes: after all, parties are not "disembodied ideological clubs," they consist of people with very specific power and commercial interests, ambitions, etc. But then there are quite significant "nuances." And there are inevitable organisational and corporate clashes here: after all, parties are not "disembodied ideological clubs," they consist of people with very specific power and commercial interests, ambitions, etc.

Few doubted that the administration of President Putin was worried about the September 17-19 elections to the State Duma. With the ruling United Russia party's support hovering below 30 percent nationally and around 15 percent in Moscow and with Putin's personal popularity rating also in decline, securing a constitutional two-thirds majority in the new legislature could be a tall order. "They face a difficult task," said Maria Snegovaya, a political analyst with Georgetown University, "despite any possible falsifications -- because you simply can't falsify everything." But observers said the ongoing crackdown across Russia seems far more sweeping than merely controlling the elections would demand. It has targeted historians and other academics. It targeted artists and theaters. It targeted lawyers and investigative journalists whose work had little direct relation to the upcoming vote.

Half the seats in the State Duma are awarded by proportional representation, while the others are assigned by ‘first-past-the-post’ results in single member constituencies. United Russia, the ruling party, has officially received close to 50% of all votes cast, while sweeping the overwhelming majority of constituencies.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the largest opposition grouping, has come in a distant second in the local races. It did, however, significantly extend its share of the overall vote, gaining about a quarter more ballots than it did in the 2016 elections and taking its support to around 19%.

The right-wing LDPR and the center-left Fair Russia – For Truth party came in third and fourth place respectively with around 7.5% each, while youth party New People, dismissed by many liberals as a Kremlin project, crossed the 5% threshold for proportional representation in the Duma. The remainder of ballots cast are, in effect, wasted votes, as the parties that received them failed to pass that hurdle.

Meanwhile, with almost all results in, United Russia was leading in 197 of the 225 single member constituencies. The KPRF was ahead in 12, Fair Russia in seven, Independents in four, and the LDPR, Yabloko, Civic Platform, the Party of Growth, and Rodina all winning in one each.

Add these to the seats assigned via party list, and the party in power is on target to get around 320 places in the Duma; the KPRF 60-65; the LDPR about 20; Fair Russia 20-25; New People maybe 12-13; and independents and minor parties 5-10. While enough to guarantee the ruling party a constitutional majority, the result amounts to a loss of about 20 seats for them compared to the last election and a corresponding increase of 20 or so for the Communists. Fair Russia – For Truth will remain roughly where it was before, while the LDPR stands to lose 15 or so Duma members.

Despite seeing its share of the vote fall since 2016, when the party polled at 55%, United Russia emerges as the big winner, and will maintain its ability to pass constitutional reforms without depending on other parties. Even the Communists’ advances should not cause it serious concern as part of United Russia’s appeal has always been that it is the only party capable of defeating the KPRF. The stronger the KPRF, the more reason there is for middle-of-the road undecideds to turn to the party that promises to prevent a turn back to the days of the Soviet Union.

The youth-orientated New People also appears to have made it past the 5% required for proportional representation, while the liberal Yabloko polled at only around 1%. That's a humiliation for politicians who see themselves as the heirs to the post-Soviet reformers of the early 1990s. Russia’s liberals have been pretty much annihilated. Three long-standing liberal parties stood for election this week – Yabloko, Civic Platform, and the Party of Growth. It looks as if they might each win one single member constituency. But their overall share of the vote was dismal – around 1% for Yabloko; 0.3% for the Party of Growth; and 0.1% for Civic Platform.

Allies of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny attempted to take credit for what amounts to something of an election upset by pointing to their 'Smart Voting' initiative – aiming to help anti-Kremlin supporters maximise the impact of their ballot depending on where they live. In reality, they advocated voting for the Communist Party in the vast majority of races.

An independent monitoring agency called the three-day vote over the weekend "one of the dirtiest" elections in Russian history. A co-chairman of the independent election-monitoring group Golos said 78,000 more electronic votes had appeared in the officials' Moscow tally than were issued, highlighting the "shame" of what he called the "shame" of "one of the dirtiest" elections in Russian history. The European Union denounced the climate of "intimidation" in the run up to the vote. For the first time since 1993, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were not present due to limitations imposed by Russian authorities.

"The measures taken by the Russian authorities to marginalize civil society, silence independent media, and exclude genuine opposition candidates from participating in the elections undermine political plurality and are at odds with the international commitments that Russia has signed up to," Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin that allegations of fraud must be taken seriously and fully investigated. "There are accusations from election observers, from Russian opposition members who speak of massive irregularities," Seibert said on September 20, adding that "these must be taken seriously and should be clarified."

"The September 17-19 Duma elections in the Russian Federation took place under conditions not conducive to free and fair proceedings," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. "We do not recognize holding elections for the Russian Duma on sovereign Ukrainian territory and reaffirm our unwavering support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."

During three days of voting, social media was full of footage of apparent blatant ballot-stuffing, with clips surfacing from various parts of Russia. In the North Caucasus, where voter fraud and irregularities are commonplace, four separate precincts in the Daghestan and Ingushetia regions reported 100 percent turnout -- in one case, just a few hours into the first day of voting. Putin gained more votes out of so-called “electoral sultanates” – most of them autonomous republics with a rich history of electoral fraud and high-turnout, high-United Russia precincts.

Intellinews reported 24 September 2021 "the initial exit polls based on the paper ballot count showed United Russia losing almost all the 15 seats in Moscow, but the final count after the e-votes were included resulted in United Russia winning all the available seats. Some pundits have speculated the blatant nature of the Moscow fix was designed to be a message to Muscovites that it was useless to protest as the Kremlin is in charge of the system and there is nothing the liberals can do to loosen the Kremlin’s grip on power. The absence of any protests following the vote suggests the residents of Moscow have succumbed to the Kremlin’s lesson.... Russia has a hybrid democracy where the Kremlin needs to earn as many genuine votes as possible to avoid mass protests that result if the fix to reach key thresholds like a majority for United Russia are too extreme."

The lack of any major protests during three days of voting did not bode well for an opposition movement that has often relied on street activism to pressure the state. It seemed unlikely that Navalny’s network will be able to rally street protests to challenge the Duma vote on the scale that they rallied after Navalny was arrested in January -- not to mention the enormous demonstrations that Navalny rallied in 2011-2012 after disputed Duma elections.

The election is widely seen as an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his grip on power ahead of a possible run in the 2024 presidential election, making control of the State Duma key.

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Page last modified: 03-10-2021 14:42:38 ZULU