Friday, October 19, 2018

Parties Other than United Russia Ignoring Local Elections, Setting Themselves Up for More Failures Ahead

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Elections at the municipal level are going on more or less constantly in Russia, but they seldom attract much attention from the population or it seems from the systemic opposition parties. Instead, these races are dominated by United Russia and to a lesser extent by those running at least nominally as independents.

            That might not matter in many countries, Ivan Rodin of Nezavisimaya gazeta says; but the Putin system’s “filtration” arrangements in which candidates for governor must get support from local officials means that in the future the opposition parties will in many cases not be able even to run (

                Experts at the Golos voting studies group say in a new report, The Sleepy Kingdom: How Parties have Forgotten about the Voters, that “the inability of the majority of political parties to independently overcome the municipal filter in gubernatorial elections in large measure is the result of the passivity of the parties themselves in local elections.” 

            They draw that conclusion on the basis of an examination of the results of 44 local elections which took place in 68 federal subjects over the last two years. In them, United Russia won 827 seats and independents won 198, but the systemic parties finished far behind, with the KPRF getting only 37 seats, the LDPR only 27; and Just Russia, just 18.”

            This “passivity,” Rodin says, “has an objective basis.”  Party leaders aren’t interested in running in local elections, often don’t have local ones on whom they can draw, and have inevitable difficulties in getting the approval of the United Russia-dominated administrations especially outside of Moscow. 

            The dominance of United Russia and independents over the other parties is even more pronounced at the level of heads of municipalities. There, out of 140 chosen by the voters, United Russia took 87 of the chairs, and independents 45.  The three systemic opposition parties together took only eight. 

            On the basis of this study, the Golos experts draw the following conclusions: “The present-day Russian party system is not fulfilling its key functions: the parties as a rule do not take part in the overwhelming majority of elections, they are weak in choosing and promoting cadres, they poorly reflect the interests of definite groups of the population in the localities, and do not ensure communications between citizens and local social institutions, on the one hand, and the authorities, on the other.”

            This pattern, they say, is undermining the authority of the party system, especially given that government payments to the parties have not declined but risen.  This has led to what they call “a crisis in the party system,” one that is causing ever more members of the political and economic elites to search for “non-institutional instruments to influence the political system.”

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