Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ethnic Impact of Duma Elections Will Surface Mostly after Votes are Counted, Meygun Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 17 – Many commentators had long speculated that the Duma election campaign would intensify ethnic tensions and suggested that was a major reason why Moscow has sought to maintain tight control over them and to make the campaign as trivial and boring as it has been.

            In one respect, Moscow has been successful: it has kept most nationalist activists from competing for votes, but this hasn’t silenced ethnic concerns; and thus the ethnic aspect of this election will be most obvious after the vote, when those who lost join those who have been excluded in new protests, Elena Meygun says (

            Meygun, who specializes on ethnic issues in the Russian Federation, draws those conclusions on the basis of a survey of non-Russian candidates who have been kept off the ballot by one means or another, candidates that have gotten on and may even win, and the attitudes of Russian nationalists to participating in the vote at all.

            The calculations both candidates and voters are making in non-Russian areas both in single-member districts and among party list voting are so complicated that it is difficult to speak of any common pattern, as a snapshot of the thinking of the population in one village in one district in Tatarstan shows (

There, many people are furious at the incumbent United Russia deputy and are trying to figure out whether not voting at all or voting but against him and his party is the best course.  On the one hand, many of them feel that not voting will reflect their feelings best; but on the other, they think the authorities will simply falsify the situation now and punish them later.

The dominant position, IdelReal reports, is that “now local activists are calling for a boycott not of the elections as a whole but only of United Russia. Local residents can vote for any party, in their position, but the main thing is that they do not vote for the party of power,” that is, for United Russia.

To the extent that voters and especially non-Russian voters focus on their objections to Putin’s party rather than the election as a whole means that the 2016 Duma elections have had a profound “ethnic” effect but it is one that will be less reflected in the votes reported, given the willingness of the authorities to falsify outcomes, than after the votes are announced.

And that could create difficulties in many locations for the authorities and not just the party of power long after the campaign concludes.

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