September 19, 2016 by AK
The Moscow Times on yesterday’s Duma election:
Half of the 450-seat State Duma is elected through party lists. United Russia has so far claimed 52 [54 with 90% of precincts counted] percent of that contest. Another 225 seats in the Duma are awarded in a single-constituency system, which means a district is represented by a single winner-takes-all candidate. When the dust settles, it is estimated that United Russia could walk away with far more than 300 seats [343 according to the latest estimate].
Exit polls gave United Russia (UR) 44-48% so 54% sounds a little suspicious but the overall picture is clear. At the previous Duma election in 2011, UR reportedly received 49% of the proportional vote; in 2007, 64%. Both in 2011 and 2007, 100% of the seats were allocated on the proportional basis with the threshold set at 7% – now it’s 50% and 5%. This makes direct comparisons between 2016 and 2011 or 2007 somewhat inconsistent, but on the face of its, obviously 54% is an improvement over 49%, if not quite the comeback of the triumphant 64% result of 2007 (when Brent averaged $72/barrel after five years of growth).
United Russia’s 343 Duma seats out of 450 translate into 76% of the total – more than three-fourths, with two-thirds enough for the “constitutional” majority sufficient to amend some articles of the constitution. This is not exactly a novelty: UR had the supermajority in 2007-11, albeit with 315 seats only, while the 2011-16 Duma was perfectly docile with UR occupying less than 2/3 of the seats.
The opposition – not the Kremlin-frendly parties but the real opposition – failed to win a single seat in the Duma. Inexplicably, these parties fielded two or more candidates in those few districts where they had a fair chance of winning. A perfect, unmitigated disaster.
What about the turnout?
A little less than 48%, down from 60% in 2011 and 64% in 2007. In proportional voting, UR actually received fewer votes in 2016 than in 2011. I can accept that many of the UR voters acted rationally (conditional on their understanding of the world around them) but those who stayed home – what’s their excuse?
It looks like most Russians continue to assert their political idiocy, both in the ancient and modern sense of the word. They don’t know why politics is important, don’t want to learn anything about it, and would rather be left alone – which is precisely why they won’t be. The peasants who supported the Bolsheviks in 1917 were also hoping they would take their land and be left alone. Those of them who survived the Civil War enjoyed almost ten years of being allowed to live and work their enlarged plots: then collectivization came. “What are to herds the gifts of liberty?”
Perhaps democracy is not the only way forward, and self-contented bondage for some does not preclude liberty for others. Give me liberty and give them… whatever you want. How exactly can it work though?