Putin’s Party Won the Right to Change the Constitution at the Duma Elections

A stunning success against a backdrop of an economic crisis and low voter turnout. Comments by top Russian pundits

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With 52 per cent, United Russia (UR), the ‘Party of Putin’ has significantly improved its electoral performance compared to the 2011 elections to the State Duma, the lower house of Russian Parliament. It will now be able to pass constitutional amendments. Three more traditional parties, the Communists, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats and the socialist leaning Just Russia all return to Parliament albeit in small numbers. 10 other parties – ranging from radical communists, to nationalists to liberals – did not make it to the Duma.

The turnout was around 48 per cent nationwide which some commentators consider as low, with only 35 per cent in Moscow (66 per cent in 2011) and even fewer in St.Petersburg, Russia’s ‘northern capital’. (All data is preliminary.)

Below are comments on the results of the elections by several leading Russian analysts:

“Opposition proposed leaders from 90s. That is why it lost

Vitaly Tretyakov, political analyst, the dean of the MSU Higher School of Television offered this analysis:

1. Many people were simply used to voting for United Russia.

2. They supported Putin.

3. The confrontation with the USA and its boorish behavior towards our country.

4. Many consider the reunification with Crimea to be a major United Russia achievement.

5. Amid the crisis, people associate United Russia with a modicum of stability.

6. Another curious moment is that despite the fact that United Russia is a party of officials, it managed to renew its list by holding primaries and recruiting new people. 

On the contrary, the parties of the so-called non-systemic opposition promoted the same old leaders: Yavlinsky, Kasyanov, Ryzhkov, people from the 90s who failed to propose anything new. They even scared away voters dissatisfied with the position on Crimea, seen as betraying the national interest.

“UR has no reason for euphoria”

Vladimir Sungorkin, Editor-in-Chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda:

I’m worried about this euphoria of United Russia. Can you really believe what they’re saying? Relatively few people voted for United Russia. The arithmetic is simple. About 20 million out of 145 million people voted for United Russia. More than half of voters stayed home. You point out that many people in Germany and France also stayed home. But Russia is neither France, nor Germany. In my opinion, a large part of the population did not come because people do not trust the electoral mechanism. So there’s no reason for euphoria. Any person, who can count and knows the figures going back to the first elections for the State Duma in 1993, sees what’s happening, and this should worry us. This kind of euphoria scares me!

Main outcome: Kremlin’s in full control

Yurasumy, Russia’s top blogger:

The first thing I paid attention to was the  relatively high turnout in the provinces and empty polls in both capitals. This suggests something good is happening. According to my friends in Moscow, people who don’t consider themselves as liberals went to the polls. This means that there has been a complete turnaround in the public mood. Liberals, who were the most active voters back in 1990s, now believe in nothing, as a result of their marginalization.

The same is true of the right-wing opposition. There’s nothing they can say against Putin, which means, they can’t get people to “fight”.  It’s curious that “patriots” did not make it into the Russian parliament , having shameful results.

The so called non-systemic opposition lost faith in its forces and became totally passive.

The main outcome of the current elections is that the fifth column in today’s Russia has nothing to lean on. The four parties that won are one way or another controlled by the Kremlin and they cover the whole political spectrum.

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