Staunton, November 13 – Russians are paying attention not only to the outcome of the American presidential elections but to the process, and some are concluding that the Russian Federation would benefit from the introduction of an electoral college that would give the regions far greater weight in choosing a Russian leader and force Russian politicians to pay more attention to them.
Moscow political analyst Ekaterina Schulmann this week called attention to a curious electoral map that the telegram channel Maps&Data produced showing what how many votes various regions of the Russian Federation would have if the country were to adopt a US-style electoral college (echo.msk.ru/programs/status/2739182-echo/).
That has provoked a discussion in the Russian expert community with some viewing such a move as a positive development that would lead to the decentralization and de-Moscovization of Russian political life but most saying that such an innovation has no chance because it has no basis in Russian life.
In what they described as “a thought experiment,” the editors of Moscow’s Snob portal asked Valery Viskalin, who produced the map, to discuss how it might work under Russian conditions, and political commentator Boris Makarenko on why he is convinced that there is no chance that Russia would ever adopt anything like this (snob.ru/entry/200313/).
Viskalin said that a Russian “electoral college” would have 450 members whose numbers for each district would range from a minimum of one to multiples of that based on population. In its earliest incarnation, he said, the map did not ensure than all federal subjects would have an elector but then it was revised to ensure that they did, even though that overstated their size.
This system is “not like the American,” Viskalin continued. “In the US, it is based on electoral districts and not directly on the population of the states,” with the total number of electors equaling the number of representatives and senators, with the latter giving the numerically smaller states a boost.
Were such a system to be adopted in Russia, he suggested, it would boost the standing of the regions, forcing politicians to pay more attention to them, because regions and republics would have a greater voice than they do now. Such an arrangement would also reduce what he called “anomalous voting in the republics of the North Caucasus.”
Makarenko argued that “such a system contradictions all the historical and present-day traditions in Russia.” The US system reflects “the American conception of federalism” where the states are primary and delegate certain powers to the center. In Russia, the center decides and the powers and rights of the regions are “extremely limited.”
Were Russia to introduce indirect elections of this kind “in the absence of real federalism,” he said, that would increase the weight of the small subjects relative to the larger ones. That is the case in the US and the Republicans have exploited it, but Russia has no equivalent political force.
But however that may be, the map – and Snob reproduces it – with the number of electors each region and republic would potentially receive is likely to lead ever more people beyond the ring road to think about this as one means of dealing with the current hyper-centralization of the Putin system even if in the end this is not the way they will want or be able to proceed.