With polls officially closed across the Russian Federation, the nation’s parliamentary election to appoint representatives to the State Duma has resulted in a decisive win for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, ensuring an extension of his hegemony within Russian politics.
The result has been interpreted as a referendum on whether the Kremlin strongman should run for a fifth term; a concept seen as atypical in many western democracies.
The contest was originally scheduled for December, but authorities had successfully sought to bring the vote closer to the Summer, possibly to ensure a larger turnout. Efforts to increase voter participation proved fruitless however, as turnout was recorded as a record low at 47.8%; a pantry figure even by U.S standards.
Securing 343 seats out of the Duma’s 450-member lower house of parliament, Putin stated that his United Russia party achieved “a very good result”, defeating the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia each taking just under 13% respectively. This election has not been without controversy, with allegations of irregularities being thrown into the media spotlight.
So called “carousel” voting, involving the purported bussing of the same voters into a variety of polling places have been alleged to have taken place in the Siberian city of Barnaul. Similarly, unverified footage from an unnamed location depicting election ballot stuffing has surfaced on mainstream media networks, although it is not known who the illegal act favoured.
Further controversy has arisen from the participation of Crimea in the parliamentary election, given the controversial annexation of the peninsula in 2014, furthering tensions between Kiev and the Kremlin. Across the Crimea into the Sea of Azov, Putin’s right hand man in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov had reportedly secured 98% of the vote in region, baffling psephologists in how such an election could garner integrity on the international stage.
With the closure of Russia’s election season, it can be said that this parliamentary election has been predictable, humdrum, and rather dull. The result that was expected came into fruition, symbolising an extension of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly autocratic and oligarchical rule, but how does this result contrast with the current race to the White House?
Comparing one continuity candidate with another, Hillary Clinton can peddle the same quasi Russo-phobic message seen within the vestiges of establishment American politics, pointing out the undemocratic nature of Putin’s rule through voting irregularities and opponent intimidation, yet for Clinton’s opponent, this result may challenge Trump’s proposed thawing of political tensions with the Kremlin.
With the upcoming presidential debate later this month, confirming Vladimir Putin’s democratic credentials may prove a sore point as Donald Trump seeks to build on his foreign policy platform, or lack thereof. It can be said that the Kremlin may be looking with one eye at Europe and the fragility of the European Union, whilst keeping the other eye on who may curry favour with him following the inauguration of the next president of the United States. On the domestic front however, Russia itself is stable for now, but such stability is never guaranteed.
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