Thursday, February 18, 2016

A New and Very Different ‘Red Belt’ Emerges in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 18 – According to the Moscow Institute for the Development of the Russian Electoral System, “a new ‘red belt’” is emerging in the country, one not centered as was the one two decades ago in agricultural areas but also “in industrially developed centers of the country.”

            That change in the boundaries of “the red belt” may give definite advantages to opposition parties,’s Sergey Popov suggests, “because in major cities, campaigning can be more effective than in small cities and in villages” because “the electorate [in the latter] is less easy to manipulate, more critical of the authorities, and on the whole more interested in politics” (

            The institute says that there are some 25 federal subjects in Russia – in which live “more than half of the voters of the country” -- that are now part of this new electoral region and that the real level of support for the ruling United Russia Party “does not exceed 25 percent” in any of them. 

            The top five of these dissenting regions in terms of the potential for protest voting, the institute’s experts say, are Irkutsk oblast, Chelyabinsk oblask, and Sverdlovsk oblast in Siberia and the city of Moscow.  In the Siberian regions, the level of protest voting could be “about 50 percent.”

            One region of the country that is unstable but where protest voting is likely to be quite low, the institute continues, is the North Caucasus. That is because of the massive subsidies these regions receive from the center and the willingness of the leaders of republics there to do whatever it takes to display their loyalty to the Kremlin.

            Even regions on the edge of the North Caucasus, like Krasnodar and Stavropol kray, are much less likely to see significant protests voting in the upcoming elections.

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