30 August 2011, 16:26

Parliamentary election campaign in Russia is under way

Parliamentary election campaign in Russia is under way
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A parliamentary election campaign has begun in Russia. The starting point was the publication of the Russian president’s decree on appointing the election to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on the 4th of December. The State Duma will be elected for five years for the first time.

A parliamentary election campaign has begun in Russia. The starting point was the publication of the Russian president’s decree on appointing the election to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on the 4th of December. The State Duma will be elected for five years for the first time. To be represented in the parliament, political parties will have to overcome the 7% barrier for the second and last time. However, even during this election the reform of the political system gives an opportunity for small parties to prove their worth and be represented in the parliament. The forthcoming campaign will by no means be monotonous or routine.

This year’s most important political event is approaching. Political parties which have been active for the last several months can officially start their election marathon. During the summer, politicians tested their strength in debate in their rivals’ absence and now all parties have the right to  openly start canvassing for themselves.

All seven officially registered political parties are expected to take part in the election. Apart from the Big Parliamentary Four, which are the United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Just Russia, also active are the Yabloko ( Apple), the Patriots of Russia and The Right Cause. This means that the lower chamber of the Russian parliament of the next convocation can become more representative. The reason is the reduction of the election barrier. Recall, that in the coming parliamentary election the barrier will remain 7% but parties that win 6% of votes will get two seats in the Duma and those that win 5% will get one seat.

The main intrigue of the forthcoming campaign is to what extent the United Russia party will manage to maintain its position in the State Duma, president of the Politika Foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov believes.

“The United Russia positions itself as a conservative party which protects the principles of traditional European social democracy, probably even Christian democracy. In general, it appeals to the entire population, and especially to its most active strata, to those who are involved in exercising power in the country. This party stands for a state-regulated market economy and for Russia as an independent centre of the modern world.”

Naturally, other parties will spare no effort to prevent the United Russia from winning 300 seats and preserving  the parliamentary majority. For example, when meeting with the Russian president, the Right Cause leader, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov proposed to restrict the party which wins the parliamentary election to 226 seats. In its programme The Right Cause calls for fixing state monopoly prices and controlling state companies and officials. Apparently, this made the number of the party’s supporters grow gradually. In August it grew to 3% as against 1% at the beginning of the year but in any event this is incomparable with The United Russia’s 54%.  The 5% barrier is still too high for the left-wing liberal parties The Yabloko and The Patriots of Russia. In August they won only 1% of supporters, Vyacheskav Nikonov points out.

“The Yabloko mostly focuses on the former Soviet middle class, intellectuals displeased with the current authorities. On the contrary, The Right Cause is a party of successful businessmen dissatisfied with the authorities for interfering in their business. In a nutshell, one party is a party of losers and the other is a party of winners. Their electorate is absolutely different and for either of them winning seats in the parliament will be a great success.”

As for the left wing of the Russian political scale - the Communist Party, its rating is a stable 18% but its potential electorate seems to be changing, Mikhail Remizov, President of the Institute of the National Strategy, believes.

“The electorate of the Communist Party of Russia is becoming more variegated. Now they are not only elderly pensioners crying for the USSR. “The new discontented” class is taking shape among potential voters and the lion’s share of their votes goes to the Communist Party, which maintains the reputation of the main oppositional force, and this affects its rating.”

The Liberal Democratic Party takes the third place with 13% of votes today, according to public opinion polls. Its electorate is people with nationalistic complexes, Vyacheslav Nikonov believes. Mikhail Remizov shares his opinion.

“The electorate of the Liberal Democratic Party is people who occupy a certain niche in society. In my opinion, they have two motives for voting. One motive is to vote against everyone. The party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has always been a candidate who traditionally fights “against everyone” and voting for him means expressing a skeptical, critical and mocking attitude to the election process itself. The second group of the party supporters is the nationalist electorate, but not the whole of it, only low-class people with little money and education.”

The key issue of the current campaign is whether the Just Russia party will get seats in the parliament, Mikhail Remizov believes. Its electorate is the non-indoctrinated middle class which is not large enough yet, the political scientist points out.

“Both The Right Cause and The Just Russia will be fighting for the non-indoctrinated protesting electorate. Interestingly, even though these two parties belong to the opposite wings of the political scale, they are trying to build their campaign relying on the moderate respectable electorate which does not want to vote for the Communist Party. If we look through the programmes of these two parties we will see that they are similar in their main message.”

Meanwhile, many political scientists believe that because leader of The Just Russia Sergey Mironov was dismissed from the post of the chairman of the Federation Council, the party will have problems at the election. So far The Just Russia only has 6% of votes, which is not enough to create a full-scale parliamentary fraction.

It is worth noting that all 450 MPs of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament of the sixth convocation will be elected according to party lists. Each party will get the number of seats proportionate to the number of votes it wins. At present all parties are preparing for congresses which will take place at the same time, in September. The congresses will approve the election lists. Experts believe that this parliamentary election will become a kind of primaries for the parties in the context of the forthcoming presidential election in Russia. The country will embark upon the presidential election campaign practically without a moment’s break, in December.

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