Staunton, September 28 – A new study of the September 9 elections concludes that protest voting among Russians against United Russia in them resembles to a striking degree the protest voting of Soviet citizens against representatives of the nomenklatura in the first free elections in the USSR in 1989 and 1990.
The study, prepared by the Liberal Mission Foundation, is available at liberal.ru/articles/7274. It is summarized and discussed by Rosbalt commentator Aleksandr Zhelenin at rosbalt.ru/russia/2018/09/28/1735397.html who stresses this comparison between Russian behavior now and Soviet behavior nearly 30 years ago.
According to the study, Zhelenin says, “the results of regional and local elections which took place at the beginning of September demonstrate “the presence in society of a demand for the fundamental renewal of political elites and the organs of power,’” something crystallized by Russian opposition to the government’s pension reform plan.
Neither Vladimir Putin who “softened” the reform nor United Russia whose candidates “tried to distance themselves” from it succeeded in stemming Russian anger and preventing protest voting or even more opposition expressed by staying away from the polls altogether, the study continues.
Instead, Russians turned not only to other systemic opposition parties but also to “spoilers or obvious outsiders” to express their rage if they went to the polls at all, while “the majority of voters as typically happens in regional and municipal polls ‘voted with their feet’ and did not take part in the elections.
Only in four of the 22 regions where voting took place did participation rise above 50 percent, and in the rest, it was far lower. In Krasnoyarsk Kray, for example, it was under 30 percent. And in Moscow where strong opposition candidates had been excluded by the powers that be, it was only 30.9 percent.
Unlike in the last election, representatives of the party of power found their way to victory more difficult and, in some cases, blocked altogether, as Russians cast protest votes and as the United Russia-backed officials failed to mobilize their own supporters to the extent that they had earlier.
Zhelenin points to one intriguing observation in the report: Its authors say that “many voters,” angry at the powers that be, have “begun to vote even for ‘obviously weak and unprepared for office’ candidates, something that demonstrates they were voting against United Russia and Moscow rather than for someone else.
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