Staunton, October 5 – For most of the last 20 years, soldiers have been a reliable source of votes for the ruling party, but that has now changed, according to a study conducted by Kremlin officials whose results have been leaked to the URA news agency (ura.news/articles/1036281096).
Using data from the Central Election Commission, the study concluded that in some regions where soldiers dominate the voting rolls, more than two-thirds of them voted for parties other than United Russia during the September 13 regional votes, a reversal of the earlier pattern and one that is worrisome to the regime.
The Kremlin official who leaked the study told URA thazt “soldiers and officers will be asked not to participate in the 2021 Duma elections in order to reduce the risks for United Russia” given that the powers that be want to ensure that it maintains a constitutional majority of two-thirds of the seats.
The study concluded that soldiers and junior officers are “tired of constant mobilization at the time of elections” and are affected by the same things, such as the increase in the pension age, that have cost United Russia and the Kremlin support among the general population, even if they are not affected directly.
At the same time, in places where military schools which prepare officers for higher ranks dominate the voter rolls, United Russia continues to be given the lion’s share of the vote, an indication that officers who see their future in the military are more likely to defer to what the Kremlin wants.
Dmitry Zhuravlyev, the head of the Moscow Institute for Regional Problems, says that a major factor in how soldiers vote is the attitude of their immediate commanders. Where the latter are supportive of the regime, the soldiers and junior officers tend to be as well; conversely, where officers are upset with Moscow, the reverse is true.
Another Russian commentator, Sergey Markelov, says that the politruks Putin introduced earlier do not appear to be playing much of a role. Instead, he suggests, they do what commanders want – and not what the center may be telling them is wanted. Whether that can change remains to be seen.