The Institution of Primaries is Spreading in Russia

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Primaries are a new element of Russian political system, but their introduction can be described as successful even now. The evidence of that is the spread of the institution of primaries. For instance, primaries will be held in May 2017 to select United Russia candidates for regional elections and elections to representative bodies, and interim heads of regions appointed by Vladimir Putin will also take part in these elections. It should be recalled that since early February Russian president Vladimir Putin has appointed interim heads of the Perm Krai region, Republic of Buryatia, Novgorod Region, Ryazan Region and Republic of Karelia. At 2016 gubernatorial elections only a closed model was used (there were only the party members or loyal organizations among the electors). In 2017 an open model will probably be used in three regions (everyone interested can become an elector). So, the spread of primaries is a step towards an increase in the quality and democratic character of Russian political process.

This step will contribute to the competition within the Party. In particular, an interim head of region will have to establish contacts with regional representatives of United Russia. Besides, an alternative candidate nominated for gubernatorial primaries should be from the Party’s regional office.

Political consultant Roman Moskovchenko noticed that this open model of primaries will provide gubernatorial candidates with the opportunity to learn more about their regions, to enter into a dialogue with people, to assess their own skills and the level of their insight into local problems:

— Open primaries presuppose discussions. It is some kind of a stress test for candidates. It is a significant event in terms of electoral process. But it will have sense only if it does not turn into the party get-together. People in the regions will have an opportunity to learn more about their new interim heads of the regions and this, to a large extent, will determine the turnout and interest towards gubernatorial elections in September. I think it is a good measure. Of course, there are some peculiarities. But open primaries will be more worthwhile for regions, voters in the regions and for candidates themselves in terms of electoral process.

Research Director at ISEPR Foundation Alexander Pozhalov added that many politicians appointed by Vladimir Putin have little experience in carrying out so-called “public policy”. In this context, primaries may become a sort of an exercise for them.


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