Experts Discuss the Specifics of the 2016 Electoral Campaign

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Both parliamentary and non-parliamentary notable Russian parties have held their party conventions. The programs have been declared and candidates both by party lists and in single-mandate constituencies have been nominated, the submission of the documents to the Central Electoral Commission for registration has started. All political forces have tried to set their goals – the majority of them will seek to get into the State Duma. Leading Russian experts discuss who is unlikely to achieve their ambitions, who may give a surprise and what all the discussions will revolve around.

Alexey Mukhin, Director General of the Center for Political Information

Many new candidates appeared during the campaign: parties attracted many people from the outside, who are not their members. Besides, it is apparent that some rules of the game have already taken shape and the system players obey to them. This makes the campaign clean, fair and competitive.

Alexander Konkov, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Public Administration at the Lomonosov Moscow State University

The reigning feature of the current campaign is an increase in the number of participants. This concerns political parties (14 parties can participate without signatures collection, besides, some other parties are going to start collecting signatures) as well as independent individual politicians (due to the introduction of single-mandate constituencies). The doctrinal makeup of the forces that will go to the polls is also of high interest. To be attractive to voters, the programs should not just cover topical issues but also be capable of remaining relevant in fast changing circumstances.

Dmitry Badovsky, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ISEPR Foundation

The popular demand for deputies is changing, but this change is caused not only by the agenda but also by the fact that on September 18 we will vote for the candidates both by party lists and in single-mandate constituencies. This changes radically the context of the campaign as well as the structure of the popular demand itself. Voters understand that the State Duma is both a legislative and representative body. Deputies have to be not just experts in legislation, but also reliable representatives of the interests of cities, communities, regions and social groups. Deputies should represent people’s interests in a dialogue with the executive bodies of national and local levels as well. There is popular demand for changes, but not for a revolution. A new trend is emerging: the demand for fresh faces and politicians’ competence is increasing, while the demand for prominent figures and celebrities in the State Duma is coming to ought. Political parties may pay attention to the latest social studies or not, only the party that will manage to pick up on these demands will win. And the price for neglecting the popular demand is not only the percentage difference at the elections, but also failure to pass a 5% threshold and the loss of some constituencies. 

Alexey Zudin, Member of the ISEPR Foundation Expert Board

We are going to witness a revolution in the niche of the parliamentary opposition parties. During the previous period the Communist party of the Russian Federation was on the second place, but now the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, at least on the level of the Russian citizens’ preferences, out-performs the Communists. It proves that the State Duma elections are competitive and that the result of these competitive elections is not pre-determined. So, the question about which parliamentary opposition party will be the first is still open.

Alexander Pozhalov, Director for Research at ISEPR Foundation

Ideological positioning of small parties is a nominal and vague category. Alliances and coalitions of small parties are rather PR-stunts to attract attention, and they are unlikely to improve their prospects at the elections. Commonly these are the alliances of non-parliamentary parties that are allowed to participate without signatures collection and small parties that have not managed to get such an opportunity. These parties can count only on the fight in one or two, or sometimes in three, single-mandate constituencies. In fact their objective is more or less realistic: to get into the parliaments of one, two or three regions, where the elections will be held alongside the State Duma elections.

Evgeny Minchenko, Director of the International Institute for the Political Expertise

I do not see any frontrunners of “Rodina” in single-mandate constituencies who look like unquestionable contenders for victory. Nevertheless, 3% and public funding would be a really good result.

People’s Freedom Party cannot count even on 3%. It should do its best to be removed from the elections in order not to demean itself. The list of “Yabloko” is predictable, not shameful, to some extent it looks like a coalition. But I think they should have nominated three or five candidates (instead of ten) – that would be enough. In this case regional groups would be more motivated to fight for the result. And now the question is: what should people in the regions vie for? In this context, I think that United Russia and A Just Russia are wiser including one candidate in their party lists.

This article first appeared on Politanalitika

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