Staunton, July 14 – Anatoly Shaburov, the Yekaterinburg political analyst who edits the Politsovet portal, says that the September Duma elections like all Russian elections have sparked debate and suggests that how the upcoming ones differ from the past are best summarized in ten theses (politsovet.ru/70931-desyat-tezisov-o-vyborah-2021.html):
1. The biggest change from the past and the one likely to spark even more concerns about official falsification efforts is that voting will take place over three days “and what is most important, two nights” when those in charge can change the recorded vote with little difficulty.
2. “The main task and problem for the authorities in these elections is converting the 30 percent rating off United Russia into 70 percent of the seats in the Duma.” It will use both honest and dishonest means to do so, focusing on single-mandate districts far more than in the past.
3. United Russia will use the newly created parties to draw off two to four percent of the vote, an arrangement that will mean that their votes won’t get these parties into the Duma but will allow the government to reallocate their votes to other parties and to United Russia in the first instance.
4. No one knows how large the protest electorate is likely to be. The Kremlin will work to ensure that either Russians stay home or cast their votes for parties that won’t make it into the Duma rather than the three besides United Russia now represented there.
5. The main threat to the ruling party comes from the systemic parliamentary parties. If protesters vote for them in large numbers, that will present the Kremlin with a more serious challenge because it will have to falsify the results further and will face protests organized by these parties as well.
6. These considerations explain why the powers that be react so negatively to any promotion of “smart voting.” Some of the official reaction is because of this idea’s link to Aleksey Navalny, but behind that are real fears of the outcomes it could produce.
7. A boycott won’t affect the outcome. The Kremlin cares only secondarily about participation. If those disaffected don’t vote, the Kremlin’s supporters will form a larger share of those who do.
8. United Russia will focus its attacks on its systemic rivals and generally ignore the other parties in the hopes that Russians won’t vote for the former but will vote for the latter if they don’t vote for the ruling party.
9. United Russia’s main strength is in the single-member districts. And this time around, it has nominated candidates in almost all of them, a sharp contrast to earlier elections.
10. These elections aren’t going to change the course of the country. If opposition candidates gain seats, the powers that be will continue with their current line and repress those Duma members who oppose what the Kremlin is doing.