Staunton, September 19 – The most important feature of the Duma Elections was unprecedentedly low level of participation, a reflection of the Russian population’s symmetrical response to the Kremlin’s contempt for its views and an indication that change in Russia “will not come via elections but as a result of some sort of catastrophe,” Viktor Shenderovich says.
For the country’s intellectuals, the Russian commentator continues, “this was already clear” with the government’s repressions in 2011-2012, “but the God-bearing people, having shrugged its shoulders, simply stupidly awaits developments” – and those are unlikely to be peaceful (charter97.org/ru/news/2016/9/19/223168/).
“Hundreds of thousands have left” the country, and the elections show that “millions are in despair.” Indeed, Shenderovich says, “only VTsIOM and Ostankino can interpret the outcome as broad support for Putin and United Russia. Everyone else will see that the people have shown their rear ends to the powers that be, just as the powers have done to them.
Other Russian analysts are drawing similar conclusions. Political scientist Maksim Zharov told URA.ru that “there may be no basis for doubting the legitimacy of the elections from the point of view of violating the law, but the low participation rate gives the extra-systemic opposition the occasion for attacking their legitimacy” (ura.ru/articles/1036269016).
And Liliya Shevtsova, another Moscow analyst, observes that these elections and the Duma they have produced are likely to be remembered “as an example of the discrediting of parliamentarianism,” something the Kremlin may welcome, but also as a failed effort by the regime to maintain stability by fakery (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57DE6FB518634).
Russian society, she suggests, “in a situation of growing dissatisfaction and not having legal channels for the defense of its interests will be forced to express its interests in the streets. Of course, the authorities understand this,” and they are preparing to repress it, something that may delay but won’t prevent an explosion.
According to Shevtsova, “everyone is saying that the new Duma will be the last dance on the stage of its collapse. Those who understand this will begin to look for new objects of loyalty. Others will continue to fill their pockets.” And despite United Russia’s “victory,” it is even possible that the new Duma will even discuss real things.
But even if that happens, the nature of the elections as controlled by the powers that be, she says, “will hardly be able to help the Kremlin imitate vitality.” Instead, they are likely to have exactly the opposite effect as events in other countries where the authorities controlled the elections and then lost control of the parliament and the streets.
That is what happened most recently with the Verkhovna Rada in Ukraine, she points out, and things are now moving beneath the surface even if the Kremlin is able for some time to use force and thus maintain the veneer of its much-vaunted “stability.”
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