Staunton, September 21 – Since the polls closed on Sunday, the Russian media have been filled with commentaries focusing on United Russia’s victory, the loss of the opposition, irregularities in the voting and the failure of a 2011-type response to emerge, and the possibility that Vladimir Putin will now move up presidential vote that has been slated for 2018.
There have been many other angles as well, and five of these which seem particularly important for the future even if they are getting less attention now are worth noting. They include:
· Voting Highlights Separation of State from Society and of Society from the State. In a “Vedomosti” commentary, Maksim Trybolyubov argues that the low level of participation points to a parting of ways on the party and the state with each looking after itself but ignoring as much as possible the other, a trend that makes any vote less an expression of support for the regime than a desire by the population to do what is expected and then focus on its own concerns. That pattern means that the regime may not be able to count on the society any more than the society can count on the state (vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2016/09/20/657699-rossiiskaya-mechta).
· Falsification of Elections Riling Non-Russians More than Muscovites. If in 2011, it was the residents of the center who were outraged by the falsification of election returns and went into the streets, this time around at least so far there have been more complaints in non-Russian republics about the way in which officials have played games with the numbers that there have been in the center. That likely reflects the experience of the Muscovites the last time and the greater attention non-Russians are paying this time around, attention and anger that has the potential to lead to protests of various kinds in the coming weeks (onkavkaz.com/blogs/1143-cinichnye-i-chudovischnye-narushenija-vlastei-v-dagestane-porodili-ozloblennoe-i-unizhennoe-obs.html, kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/289623/ and asiarussia.ru/blogs/13649/).
· The Higher Inflation is in Russia, the More Disposed Russians are to Vote for United Russia. A new study finds that inflation which usually leads people to be more critical of their government is having exactly the opposite effect in Russia. Instead of voting against United Russia, Russians who are experiencing inflation are more inclined to vote for the party of power than for others, believing the study concludes that inflation is caused by outside forces rather than by Kremlin policy. That finding could make a new inflationary policy more acceptable to the powers that be in Moscow (iq.hse.ru/news/191095344.html).
· Fearful of Anti-Clerical Reaction, Religious Leaders Assume Low Profile. Mindful that their more active involvement in the 2011 elections led to the Pussy Riot protests, Russian Orthodox hierarchs generally adopted a lower profile this time around. Other religious groups, including the Muslims, did the same, with the exception of Daghestan where some mullahs and muftis had been involved in the political struggle. Whether this low profile was promoted by the Kremlin or simply reflects a calculation on the part of the religious leaders as to what is best for them and their flocks is unclear (interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=19810).
· Ordinary Russians Understand Putin System Better than Liberal Elites, Pavlova Says. The Putin regime has once again carried out perfectly Soviet style elections, something that the Russian people by refusing to take part showed they understand far better than do the Russian liberal elites who still think they can achieve something by working with the Kremlin, US-based Russian historian Irina Pavlova says. The people recognize as the elites do not that elections like so much in the Putin era are fake and irrelevant to their lives (rufabula.com/articles/2013/09/19/kremlin-elections-conspiracy).