Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ethnic Lobbies Seen Emerging among Members of New Duma

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 14 – Although the upcoming Duma elections are unlikely to significantly change the share of seats that the systemic parties have, they are, because of the return of single-member constituencies, going to introduce into the parliament more deputies with ties to particular regions and republics.

            And that change could lead to another -- the rise of ethnic lobbies among the deputies – something that could mean the non-Russian republics would have a new way to advance their demands in Moscow and an additional way to complain in a more high profile way when those demands are not met.

            If that happens, then the impact of the return of single-member districts could prove to have far greater consequences than many analysts have predicted (For a discussion of such views, see and even lead to major changes in center-periphery relations in the Russian Federation.

            The prospect for an ethnic lobby in the new Duma has been raised by Andrey Serenko, the Elista correspondent for “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” who writes that Kalmykia, the Buddhist republic adjoining the North Caucasus, will have two and possibly three seats in the new Russian Duma and not the one it has now (

            (As Serenko explains, the reason for uncertainty of the final number has to do with the sharing of seats between United Russia and the KPRF, parties that pose as opponents but that in Kalmykia have been working hand in glove and in ways that make three “Kalmyk” seats even more likely than two.)

            Local political analyst Aleksandr Strizoye tells the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist that “the interest of the republic authorities in an increase in the number of representatives from the region in the State Duma is understandable.” 

            According to the analyst, “this is not simply a unique chance in modern Kalmyk political history.” It is simply practical politics: “In an era of economic crisis, it is extremely important to have in the structures of federal power strong lobbyists capable of defending the interests of the region in the distribution of budget moneys” and so on.

            “Two and possibly even three deputies in the State Duma,” Strizoye says, “is already a significant lobbyist group, which will be capable of doing a great deal. And here already it is not important precisely what party shadings the deputies have – the deficit of money and economic problems are making not only ordinary citizens but also politicians more pragmatic.”

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