From Izvestia, Aug. 18, 2022, p. 2. Condensed text:
The military operation in Ukraine [see Vol. 74, No. 8, pp. 9‑13] and resistance to Western pressure on will be the main factors determining the course and outcome of the elections in September. . . .
The main thing is consolidation.
The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) told Izvestia that the single day of voting on Sept. 11 will see less competition than the 2021 federal campaign [see Vol. 73, No. 38‑39, pp. 3‑6]. This has to do not just with the lower number of participants, but also with the particularities of Russia’s political life.
“Each campaign is, of course, unique in its own way. But I don’t think this one will be very competitive, nor will it have a significant number of irregularities. First, this is not a federal campaign, like 2021, when there were elections for State Duma deputies. Second, right now Russians are fixing all their attention on the special military operation,” CEC member Yevgeny Kolyushin told Izvestia.
According to him, there will most likely be irregularities, but probably not many.
This opinion is shared by Maksim Grigoryev, head of the Public Chamber’s coordinating council for public oversight of voting.
“We have two factors that are currently exerting the greatest influence on the elections. On the one hand, there is increased external pressure and interference in Russia’s affairs. This is no longer hidden and is being done openly. As you know, a lot of funding is being put toward this. But at the same time, we are also observing patriotic consolidation in society. All the political parties say they support the special military operation and get a boost from that,” he explained to Izvestia.
For that reason, he says, the election campaign is to some extent becoming more predictable and simpler for those political forces that express the opinion currently shared by a majority of Russians.
In addition, Maksim Grigoryev pointed out that the public oversight system in Russia is getting stronger every year, so we should not expect large-scale fraud during these elections.
As CEC head Ella Pamfilova said earlier, around 4,600 election campaigns in 81 regions have been scheduled for this year’s single day of voting. The main ones will be the gubernatorial elections to be held in 15 constituent entities. There will be direct elections of the heads of Vladimir, Tambov, Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Kirov, Saratov, Kaliningrad, Ryazan, Novgorod and Sverdlov Provinces, as well as Mari El, Buryatia, Karelia and Udmurtia. The head of Adygeya will be elected by an indirect vote in the republic’s parliament.
In addition, elections will be held for six regional parliaments in Russia: Udmurtia, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Krasnodar Territory, and Penza, Saratov and Sakhalin Provinces.
The elections for 11 city Dumas and councils will also be important. They will take place in Gorno-Altaisk, Cherkessk, Barnaul, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Vladivostok, Kirov, Kursk, Omsk, Pskov, Tver and Yaroslavl.
Out of the municipal elections, the most competitive will be those for 1,417 deputies in Moscow. They will be held in 125 of the capital’s 146 boroughs. According to Dmitry Reut, deputy head of the Moscow City Electoral Commission, 6,259 candidates were registered for these elections, but that number could change if any of those whose registrations were rejected are able to achieve registration through the courts.
Experts think that since the majority of Russians have now consolidated around the president and support the special military operation in Ukraine, the elections will be akin to a referendum. Voters will support all candidates who hew to the patriotic course.
“Patriotic mobilization has undoubtedly created favorable conditions for holding elections. The campaign is progressing calmly. In most regions, the opposition’s participation is only nominal. Of course, none of this means that the elections are rigged. It’s just that with the military operation going on, the political players’ and parties’ attitudes toward [the elections] have become more responsible,” Dmitry Orlov, head of the Political and Economic Communications Agency, told Izvestia.
According to him, it is highly probable that there will be no runoffs in any of the regions.
This opinion is shared by Konstantin Kalachov, head of the Political Expert Group.
“As I see it, these elections are similar to a referendum. They show that voters will vote for candidates who support the president and the military operation. Under these circumstances, the main thing for election organizers will be ensuring decent turnout, and remote voting will be one of the tools for that,” he explained to Izvestia.
This expert also rules out runoffs in the gubernatorial elections. He also believes that this campaign has been smoother and less conflict-ridden for the opposition. As an example, he cited the Udmurtia gubernatorial registration of Russian Federation Communist Party (RFCP) candidate Aleksandr Syrov, who was once even the subject of a criminal case [on tax evasion].
“All the competition has shifted to the municipal level, as we see in Moscow and other regions. The reason is that there is no political agenda there,” the expert clarified.
Aleksei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, also thinks that the main distinctive feature of these elections will be the patriotic consensus among the parties participating in them. He does not think they will make any biting or critical statements on this single day of voting. Although the RFCP will try to maintain its opposition niche, it is not being particularly active. At the same time, this expert similarly noted higher competition in municipal elections.