Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are Russian Elections Again Going to Be Focusing on ‘Missing One Percent?’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 22 – In Soviet times, Western analysts gleaned enormous insights into the attitudes of various non-Russian peoples in the USSR by analyzing small variations in the level of support voters in the various union republics gave to the always unopposed CPSU list of candidates.

            In a 1968 American Political Science Review article, Jerome Gilison described this effort in an article often familiarly and sometimes slightingly referred to as “The Missing One Percent” (

            Now, a half century later, analysts in both Russia and the West are moving back toward to analyzing Russian elections in a similar way, considering relatively small, albeit larger than in Soviet times, variations in levels of participation and support for Vladimir Putin among different ethnic and regional groups.

            In reporting on regional variations, the Federal Press news agency said it was doing no more than football commentators do when confronted with an expected lopsided victory: they focus on the small things in order to keep things interesting for their audiences even though those secondary figures are just that (

                Putin, it notes, did not get the highest percentage of votes in Crimea as some had expected – the boycott by Crimean Tatars probably precluded that – but rather in Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnya and Daghestan, North Caucasus republics where many say corruption this time around remained just as rampant as before (

            The Russian president received the lowest levels of support in Sakha, Altay Kray and Primorsky Kray, precisely the places where KPRF candidate Pavel Grudinin received the most votes, 27.35, 23.67 and 21.39 percent respectively. Grudinin also received over 20 percent in the Altay Republic and in Omsk Oblast.

            LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky received his greatest support this time as in 2012 in Siberia, the Far East, and the Transbaikal, but his figures were lower now. Kseniya Sobchak got her highest vote totals in Moscow and St. Petersburg and among Russians living abroad, but she did not get five percent in any of those.  Her least support was in North Ossetia – 0.22 percent.

            The other liberal candidate, Grigory Yavlinsky, also did his best in the two capitals but in neither did he get as much as 3.2 percent. “Unexpectedly,” he received 2.37 percent of the vote in Ingushetia. Elsewhere in the North Caucasus, he got less than one percent this time just as has been the case in the past.

            As far as participation is concerned, it grew by small amounts in both of the capitals; but the share of voters their casting their ballots for Putin was far higher than in past, almost exactly the same as the country as a whole and thus far more than ever before.  As a result, the liberals for whom Moscow and Petersburg had been bastions lost out.

            Participation was highest of all among those living outside the Russian Federation, 97.80 percent. That was followed by the 93.66 percent figure in Tyva, the 91.90 percentage share in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District,, 91.80 in Kabardino-Balkaria, 91.54 in Chechnya, and 89.98 percent in North Ossetia.

            At the other end of the participation ranking, with between 55 and 58 percent casting ballots, were Transbaikal Kray, Tver Oblast, Novgorod Oblast, Karelia and Irkutsk Oblast.

            Some figures about participation and support for Putin told a particular story. Tatarstan, under pressure from the Kremlin for much of the last year on the power-sharing accord and language use, turned out to be “the absolute leader in terms of the reduction of votes for Vladimir Putin” and in the level of participation (

                This year, Tatarstan gave the president 113,172 fewer votes than it had in 2012; and 160,000 fewer Tatarstan voters took place, a clear indication of unhappiness with Putin and Moscow, albeit relatively small figures considering the total number of votes in the country and the share Putin received overall.

            Two other places where major shifts in voting occurred were in the capitals and other large cities which went from being the bastions of the opposition to places which gave Putin almost the same share as the country as a whole and in Siberia and the Far East which did the same (

                In 2012, for example, only 46 percent of Moscow voters cast their ballots for Putin. This time, 71 percent did, a pattern replicated in St. Petersburg and other major cities and a reflection both of changes in Russia since the Crimean Anschluss and the success of Putin’s political campaign this time around. 

            But perhaps even more dramatic were Putin’s gains in both participation and support east of the Urals.  In 2012, some places in those regions lagged country-wide figures by 20 percent. This time around the differences in both were significantly small across this enormous region (

                Indeed, Krasnoyarsk political analyst Yury Moskvich said that these elections showed that Putin “is not only president of Moscow, St. Petersburg and central Russia” but of the entire country, a reflection of how much has changed since the Russian president organized the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

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