Staunton, July 3 – Russian moderate opposition parties are losing support while “the activity of parties advancing more radical positions is growing,” according to Aleksandr Kynyev, a specialist on regional development, reporting on the findings of the first report on the current election cycle prepared by the Committee on Civic Initiatives.
In an article in “Vedomosti” this week, Kynyev draws that and four other conclusions on the basis of an examination of the electoral campaigns now going on in advance of the September 13 vote, “the last major voting before the regional and federal elections of 2016” (vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2015/06/30/598724-vibori-rastuschei-polyarizatsii).
The five trends he identifies are as follows:
· First, he points out, there have appeared “new limitations” on who can be involved in campaigns. Not only are foreigners excluded but so too are “’foreign agent’” NGOs. They cannot contribute to parties or candidates any longer. “All this changes nothing it practice: what is being prohibited in fact never was, Kynev says; but these new limitations are “obviously directed at he further stigmatization of independent pubic organizations.”
· Second, there has been an expansion in the number of regions where direct elections of the governors by the population have been eliminated.
· Third, there has been “a broadening of the actual control of the executive vertical over the system of local self-administration” which has allowed regional governments to eliminate direct elections of the heads of municipal formations. This year, for the first time, there will not be any direct elections in many regional centers, and there are a number of efforts to eliminate elections for members of city councils, although these steps like the others have sparked dissent.
· Fourth, Moscow has cut the share of deputies in regional parliaments who must be elected by party list from 40 percent to 25 percent. (In Moscow and St. Petersburg, even that lower limit has been eliminated.) As Kynev points out, this step “reduces the institutional role in the political system of parties as such.” At the same time, this change increases the influence of governors who control the administrative resources such as registration of candidates that gives them a greater voice in who runs and who wins.
· And fifth, the analyst continues, as a result of these changes, many parties have curtailed their activities or even stopped them altogether. At the same time, these changes have made it more difficult for new parties to form, slowing the growth of their number over the last year or so. And that combination means that there has been a falloff in the activities of “’the moderate opposition’” while there has been a growth in that “of parties which express clearly defined ideological positions and frequently have a radical point of view on many foreign and domestic issues.”
Those changes in this electoral cycle are likely to have an impact on the next one as well, marginalizing parties as a whole and creating a situation in which more radical groups will marginalize themselves in the eyes of the population, Kynev suggests.