Staunton, May 2 – Some commentators are suggesting that the upcoming Duma elections are meaningless because the Kremlin will do whatever it has to in order to ensure that it has a constitutional majority in the parliament, but such conclusions, former Putin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov says, miss the point.
On the one hand, the way United Russia candidates are behaving sets them up for defeat where opposition candidates have been able to register; and on the other, if the only way the party of power can remain in control is by administrative measures, that sets the stage for massive protests after the results are announced (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2831766-echo/).
In a commentary subtitled “why the United Russia candidates are losing,” Gallyamov says that most of them are acting as they did in earlier elections, talking about local issues and ignoring any discussion of the federal agenda. But such an approach, while it worked in the past, won’t work now.
When Russians generally approved the direction the country was going, that was a good strategy, he says. But now, “people understand that the problems which concern them bear a federal character and that the approaching campaign is also a federal one.” Those who talk only about local parks and streets are failing to respond to the change.
According to Gallyamov, “people are now beginning to understand that a deputy is not a mayor or a lobbyist but in the first instance a law maker. Now, even the bearers of localist political culture are beginning to think and conduct themselves as if they were Europeans” and worry about the country’s direction.
In this new situation, “the pro-power deputies are doomed. In order to win, they don’t need to offend Putin and demand the freeing of Navalny.” But they must at least be willing to select “several of the most unsuccessful steps of the federal authorities and raise them as issues,” indicating what they would do differently if they are returned to the Duma.
Few United Russia candidates appear capable of doing even that, Gallyamov says, and because that is the case, he says he “considers their assertions that they will win the majority of districts as baseless” or rather based exclusively on their expectation that the Kremlin will widely employ “non-electoral methods” to ensure the outcome it and they want.
Russians may vote for United Russia candidates only where there is no choice. Where there is a choice, they won’t. And if the results are so at variance with what Russians feel because of falsification, there will be other more serious problems ahead even if nominally United Russia remains in control.