Staunton, September 12 – Tomorrow, Russians will go to the polls to vote for 17 governors, 11 regional legislatures and 23 mayors of major cities. “No one expects much from them,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says, except as a tune up for the 2021 parliamentary vote. And because of that, the most important aspect of these elections is likely to be missed.
That aspect, the Russian economist and commentator says, is often neglected; but it is critical because in perhaps no other country on the earth have the arrangements and rules governing elections changed so rapidly over such a short term, making comparisons between one election and another extremely difficult (ridl.io/ru/rossijskaja-jelektoralnaja-stabilnost/).
“The flexibility of the Russian electoral system might be a surprise for either the British or Americans, where the Parliament or Congress has been formed according to continuous rules with deep historical roots,” Inozemtsev says. “But since Russia became independent, none of the general elections was conducted with the same rules that had governed its predecessor.”
In his essay, the Russian commentator details step-by-step the changes made in parliamentary, presidential and gubernatorial elections between each cycle, helping those on top to remain in control but not permitting the development of the political system in a constitutional manner.
Over and above that, Inozemtsev continues, the procedure of voting has been changed as well. “For almost twenty years it was organized through a traditional paper ballots casted at polling stations; in 2008 special electronic devices were installed able to scan the paper ballot and pass info to the Central electoral commission in Moscow.”
“Later,” he says, “voting at home was added (the local commission members can visit voters at their apartments if they are “ill” – but of course the total number of such “incapacitated” shoot up to 20 percent of eligible voters). During the July 1  referendum, citizens in Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod region were able to vote by Internet.”
The fundamental and overriding conclusion from all this, Inozemtsev says, is that “If one wants to achieve “stability” for his power, [the man at the top of the system] should arrange the maximum “flexibility” for the electoral system. Contemporary Russia seems to be an undisputed world leader in this -- with no other country coming even close to its record.”
Unfortunately, when tomorrow’s returns are reported, few will be told about these changes and the ways in which they have undermined the promise of democratic change Russians hoped for three decades ago.