Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Russian Electoral System Delivers Majorities for Party of Power but Threatens to Destroy Country, Alksnis Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – The Kremlin and its United Russia Party have so structured the country’s electoral map that the country’s voters reliably deliver majorities for the party of power at all levels, but precisely because of the ways the center is doing so, Moscow is creating conditions that put the country’s territorial integrity at risk, Viktor Alksnis says.

            United Russia wins elections, Andrey Ivanov of Svobodnaya pressa says, because it draws on the support of “more conservative and elderly voters,” while “at the same time and educated citizens do not have adequate representation in the organs of power (svpressa.ru/politic/article/298445/).

            He draws that conclusion on the basis of an analysis performed by the initiative group preparing for the Zemsky Congress, who using official data, show that the party of power has structured things in its favor even before any voting or voting falsifications occur.

            The group divides Russia into three groups, “Russia-1” which includes the residents of big cities, “Russia-2” which includes Russian regions outside major metropolitan areas, and “Russia-3” which includes regions and “almost all the national republics” that routinely return large majorities for United Russia.

            “Russia-3,” even though its voters constitute only 11 percent of all Russian voters, provided in 2016, 28 percent of all the votes United Russia received. That is in sharp contrast to “Russia-1” which has 47 percent of all voters but gave the party of power only 27 percent of the vote it received country wide. “Russia-2” had a smaller imbalance than either of the others.

            Because half of the deputies are elected by party list rather than in single-mandate districts, this pattern means that “Russia-3” has 25 more deputies than its population merits while “Russia-1” has 67 fewer. And that pattern holds in regional elections as well, the analysts continue.

            According to Ivanov, this is creating “two parallel political realities. In the first are elections and a parliament formed on the basis of these results; and in the second live active citizens who do not have any relationship” to that system. He spoke to political analyst Viktor Alksnis who agrees that this is a delayed action mine under the country as a whole.

            The powers that be, he says, are quite satisfied with this system because it allows them to win. But so too were CPSU officials at the end of Soviet times and tsarist ones just before 1917. They confused electoral results with public support and soon after “winning” votes, they were swept away.

            That leads the Kremlin to make big mistakes. Its treatment of Aleksey Navalny is one of them. Were Navalny to become a Duma deputy, Alksnis says, he wouldn’t be able to do anything. But as a prisoner, he has become a symbol of resistance to the Kremlin and all it stands for.

            Perhaps Alksnis’ most important comment concerns the non-Russian republics which regularly deliver overwhelming majorities for United Russia. In those places, he says, “local elites have been formed which completely control the situation. The Kremlin is pleased. This works for the regime.”

            But Alksnis argues that “the elites in all these regions are thinking about the formation of independent states. They are simply waiting their moment. In this, the situation very much reminds one of that which was the case on the eve of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.”

            Indeed, he suggests, something resembling what happened in Ukraine could happen in Russia. For the time being, these republic elites are willing to play along; but if the situation descends into chaos, they will “begin to think about their own plans. By its actions, the Kremlin is provoking disorders.” And that may lead to the disintegration of the country.


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