On September 18, the Russian nation elected deputies to the country’s Duma for a seventh time since the establishment of its constitution in 1993.
Vladimir Putin and Dimitry Medvedev’s ruling United Russia Party secured a super-parliamentary majority, winning over three quarters of the total mandate. In sharp contrast, the pro-western opposition parties suffered an election fiasco, failing to secure a single seat in the Russian parliament.
When put in perspective, the Kremlin has obtained five peaceful years until the next legislative elections, slated for 2021. During that time, the Russian government will be introducing legislation, which only requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority in order to be adopted as law.
In light of the turbulent times stemming from a growing geopolitical struggle between Russia and the west, it would be safe to say that absolute support for the government and its control of the parliament is a key precondition for the survival of the Russian state.
The Demise of the Pro-Western Opposition
Out of the total 450 seats in the Duma, the number going to United Russia deputies has increased from a meager 238 in the 2011 election to a whopping 343.
“In comparison to the 2011 campaign, the link to Putin was much stronger this time,” said the director of the Moscow-based Center for Current Politics, Alexey Chesnakov.
By winning 54% of the vote, Putin’s party secured a major victory at a time of an economic crisis, serious pressures from the west and Russia’s swelling defense budget amid record low oil prices.
The victory also serves as testimony to Putin’s claim that the Russian people have “matured”, in that they no longer buy into false promises.
According to Moscow-based political commentator Aleksandr Morozov, the pro-western parties garnered “about 15 percent altogether, with none of them getting more than 1.5 percent individually. Not one of those parties will get into the Duma, and all their mandates will be distributed among the four parties that do.”
This is despite the fact that the pro-western opposition parties ran a very active and aggressive election campaign. They used numerous opposition media outlets, while state-run media had an open door policy towards their campaigns.
Two of those parties, including the Russian United Democratic Party, Yabloko, won around 1.3% of the vote, while the People’s Freedom Party, Parnas, failed to exceed 0.73%.
It is doubtful that this sort of result was regarded as a success by anyone in the west, which served as the opposition’s launch pad for a costly, months-long anti-Putin campaign.
Dozens of well-produced documentaries alone – depicting “corruption” within the ruling United Russia party – are estimated to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But to no avail.
What’s more, western allegations of election fraud were quickly put to bed by the 264,000 local and 800 foreign observers. Meanwhile, experts explained away claims of voter apathy by pointing out that the turnout, which fell just below the 50% mark, was in line with European trends.
Thus, Putin’s triumph and that of the political forces, which serve as the pillars of his government, is now complete.
“In the face of difficulties, a large number of uncertainties, risks, people definitely choose so-called stability and trust in the leading political force, trust the government that relies on United Russia in parliament, trust that we will act professionally and in the benefit of citizens,” Putin said following his party’s election victory.
The Governor of Tula
Russia’s legislative elections were also interesting on a local level. One small, although potentially important event, saw residents in Russia’s Tula region elect a governor in what marked the first direct vote in 15 years.
The leading contender for the post was acting governor Alexei Dyumin, who Putin appointed in February of this year.
Dyumin achieved an outstanding victory, securing 84% of the vote, further fueling speculation that he is being groomed to succeed Putin as the head of state. The Russian leader himself added to the speculation by choosing to visit Dyumin following the conclusion of his electoral campaign.
The 44-year-old general rose to prominence when he commanded the Special Operations Forces of the Russian Army, which played a pivotal role in securing Crimea in 2014. Putin awarded him with the Hero of Russia honor for courage, and he was promoted to deputy head of infantry. According to unconfirmed reports, Dyumin also served as the deputy head of Russia’s GRU military intelligence.
Governing a relatively developed region, located not too far from Moscow, will serve as the perfect introduction into political life for Dyumin.
As things stand, the likeliest United Russia Party candidate for the 2018 presidential race is Putin himself, who is allowed to run for one more six-year term. But the younger Dyumin could very well be given the opportunity to replace his boss in 2024.
This is just one of the many reasons why this year’s parliamentary elections should be viewed as a very important part of Russia’s political development.
In the aftermath of the vote, the Kremlin has emerged with a convincing constitutional majority in parliament at a time when the Russian president, the state apparatus and in fact the whole nation, prepare to face some of the most serious challenges in the country’s history.
Source: Al-Ahed News
27-09-2016 | 12:17