Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Deputies from Single-Member Districts Represent ‘Hidden Threat’ to Regime, Titkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 20 – The victory of United Russia in Sunday’s Duma elections has attracted the most attention, but many of its deputies elected in single-member districts may prove more loyal to their regions and regional heads than to the party. If that happens, Aleksey Titkov says, they will constitute “a hidden threat” to the Putin system.

            On the Polit.ru portal today, the Moscow commentator argues that even though deputies from single-member districts are United Russia members, “in practice they are connected not so much with the leadership of the party as will the leadership or the electors of their own region” (polit.ru/article/2016/09/20/titkov_comm/).

            And that means, he continues, that the Kremlin is going to have to come up with new tactics and strategies for working with these people, who after all constitute half of the Duma’s members “and it is still difficult to say” what this strategy will look like or whether any such strategy will work.

            Titkov says that these problems “are more potential” that immediate but can certainly surface in the event of a political or economic crisis. Indeed, in the absence of such a crisis, these deputies are more likely than not to follow the party line.  That is all the more likely given that Russia is about to enter a presidential election, and the deputies will want to show loyalty.

            Another Russian commentator, Olga Kortunova, has gone further and suggested that the elections as a whole were marked by a revolt of regional elites, one very “open and bold.” Regional leaders ignored the Kremlin’s guidelines to promote their own interests and their own candidates (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57DF99C81DC25).

            Regional leaders didn’t press for the election of opposition candidates but rather people from United Russia, but by using various means to win votes for their United Russia candidates, the governors showed that Sunday was “hardly a victory of the Kremlin” and that the outcomes “showed the Kremlin” who is really running things beyond the ring road.

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