United Russia’s Primaries for State Duma Elections

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United Russia’s primaries that took place on Sunday have clearly illustrated voters’ longing for new political figures, claim experts. Partly it contributed to a high turnout as nearly 10 million voters came to cast their ballots Russia-wide. Only preliminary results have been released. The candidates of the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF) seem to have done well.

Dmitry Badovsky, Chairman of the ISEPR Foundation’s Board, believes that primaries convey the most modern vision of parliamentary elections and that the party has an opportunity to discuss its delegates with its voters as well as its Duma agenda and current manifesto:

New candidates’ triumph reveals an apparent demand for fresh ideas, for new experienced activists who have already implemented some projects in their cities and regions and have a sufficient understanding of the nonprofit sector, social integrity and the citizens’ implementation of joint projects and initiatives. A large number of previously unknown people ran in the primaries, including non-party politicians. Over 400 people were aged under 30. On the one hand, it points to the obvious interest of young ambitious civil activists in the procedure as a kind of a social ladder to be promoted and win the platform to air their policies and propose legislation amendments.

Newcomers, including those from the People’s Front, were apparently victorious at the United Russia’s primaries. In many regions they seem to have beaten their opponents and will top regional party lists in constituencies. Primaries serve as a reliable indicator of demand for social activism, as activists who have demonstrated their competence in the Front’s recent projects are now standing in the parliamentary elections.

As far as voters’ participation is concerned, the turnout of over 9% – as over 10 million people came to the polls on Sunday – is a figure to consider closely. Let’s compare it with the 2011 parliamentary elections’ outcome when some political parties which crossed the 5% threshold, gained fewer votes, about 7-8 million. Thus, more people vote in United Russia’s preliminary voting than they did for other political parties. Therefore, we can state that the figure of 9% is worth considering.

Rostislav Turovsky, Vice-President of the Center for Political Technologies, notes that though the Duma elections surely are superior to the primaries, the preliminary voting was undoubtedly a success:

I would say that the primaries were successful given the existing constraints. Lacking interest on the part of voters is still a stumbling block, even among those who voted for the United Russia party. Therefore, granted that a huge turnout, like the one at regular elections, was not expected, the primaries accomplished a desired aim. At the same time, the contrast between regions and even the rules of the game followed by the regional authorities including governors and leaders of United Russia’s local organizations is striking. This is highly consequential for political infighting within Russia’s entities, which could not but impact upon the primaries.

As Alexander Pozhalov, Research Director ISEPR Foundation, puts it, the primary elections have accomplished one of the major tasks of injecting fresh blood in politics, especially non-party figures:

For many ONF activists such participation in the primaries to select candidates for the 2016 parliamentary elections is the first step both in politics and elections, which amounts to some sort of a transition from public activities to political ones. If the closed primaries were conducted – exclusively among the party’s members and when only United Russia was able to list its candidates – undoubtedly, this would have cut off every path for all activists to go into politics. Actually, this voting procedure performed one of its chief functions – it enabled the party to involve mobile and flexible public figures as new candidates in the elections. Cities witnessed the primaries’ success because there is a heavy demand from voters for new faces in the State Duma and the domestic political arena as a whole.

For me the primaries’ most memorable moment constituted, above all, a high voter turnout. According to the most recent estimates, it has reached the 10 million mark. This figure is higher than the votes cast for Just Russia at the 2011 major elections – at that time, the party was in third place with 8.5 million votes. As regards United Russia, its preliminary elections alone grabbed attention of far more people. In my opinion, they were a symbol of great success, particularly given the fact that the United Russia federal leadership had sought to avoid achieving performance targets in terms of the turnout, misusing administrative resources and mobilization. There is no denying that these violations took place in some regions. However, amid such excesses the United Russia federal committee is eager to overturn the results at particular polling stations. And notwithstanding this, the latest figures have proved to be very high, thus instilling confidence in the party.

I was especially surprised at the turnout in Moscow, which exceeded 5%. And it happened so in spite of airing party advertisements for the preliminary vote just several days before the procedure, whereas in 2014 Russia’s capital experienced more advertising ahead of the City Duma primaries. It was obvious that Moscow and Saint Petersburg would fail to see higher turnouts at the early elections. Generally, a lower turnout is rather typical of megacities or large cities given the “dacha” or countryside season. And the fact that in Moscow far more people cast their ballots than in 2014 is a success story.

These comments were collected by Politanalitika.ru

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