Feb 16, 2021
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“United Russia” will be blown away by the “Wind of Change”

"United Russia" will be blown away by "Wind of Change"

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak / TASS

“Fortress”, “Wind of Change” and “Escaping Majority” – these are the names given by experts of the Petersburg Politics Foundation to three possible scenarios for the elections to the State Duma in 2021. Let us remind you that elections to the lower house of parliament are to be held on a single voting day, already on September 19. However, the fund’s report says they “have not yet become a de facto major political event.” According to RBC, there are several reasons for the low interest of the population in the topic of the autumn elections. In particular, many citizens are either not aware of the upcoming vote, or do not attach much importance to it. Another reason, the publication calls the general political apathy, which was noticeable before, but intensified in the fight against the coronavirus.

Head of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation Mikhail Vinogradov notes that the upcoming elections can be compared with the 2016 campaign, which now looks subtle against the background of the annexation of Crimea and the pension reform in 2018. At the same time, according to the authors of the report, the elites view the vote through the prism of 2011, when elections to the lower house of parliament coincided with a “serious surge of public energy” in the form of large-scale protests. Three possible, according to the authors of “Petersburg Politics”, scenarios of future elections reflect the trends that can be observed today in Russian politics.

The “Fortress” option implies that the party retains the power of the constitutional majority, just as it was done in 2016. To do this, you need to get 2/3 of all 450 mandates. Experts doubt that the current ratings of the party allow it to count on such a result.

The Wind of Change scenario assumes that United Russia will receive approximately 260 mandates. With this option, analysts do not exclude that not only the United Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party and the SR will get into parliament. In this situation, United Russia members do not actually lose their hegemony in the State Duma, but remain without a constitutional majority. Therefore, this option is fraught with reputational risks.

Under the Escaping Majority option, the authorities can weaken control over the elections, limiting themselves to organizing fair rules of the game. In such a scenario, United Russia may not even get a simple majority, given that the party’s ratings are far from being at their peak. Political scientist Marat Bashirovhowever, he considers such a picture of the political struggle in Russia too general and insufficiently detailed. In his opinion, a third force may appear in the Duma of the VIII convocation, which de facto will side with the United Russia:

– It’s such a figurative story. Now many people are fond of this form of information presentation. Colleagues are essentially correct. But they look at everything only from the point of view of United Russia, placing it in the dominant position. And in my opinion, this is not entirely true.

We can see that there are three very powerful requests that will be very difficult to fit into the election program of only one party. The first is a story about social justice, which was compounded by what happened to us during the lockdowns.

The second is an environmental story. And civil servants are already talking about it more and more often. We see that the government is also adopting a program to reduce CO2 emissions. All this warms up the “green agenda”.

And third – we also hear this from the lips of the government – this is all that concerns small and medium-sized businesses. It seems to me that it will be very difficult to put all three of these stories at the same time in the United Russia program. There is a huge possibility that two, if not three new parties can enter the State Duma. And this is precisely what destroys the constructions described by the colleagues.

There is still a lot of time before the elections. Therefore, the authorities look broader than just repeating the scenario that was five years ago. But I don’t think they think there are any risks from the point of view of the State Duma’s control. We know with you that there are two types of laws: federal and federal constitutional laws. For the latter, you need to have 2/3 votes. And for ordinary laws – 50% plus one vote.

So, from the point of view of controllability, it is absolutely not necessary for them to achieve the victory of “United Russia”. They may well get parliamentary groups loyal to the president in these new parties.

I would not rule out – my colleagues missed it, in my opinion – that a faction of independent deputies could be formed in general, who were elected as single-mandates who will create their own separate faction. But on fundamental issues they will be consolidated with United Russia. And thus, a qualified majority will be ensured, and these 2/3 of the constitutional majority. This variability is important in general for the stability of the entire political field.

It seems to me that the Kremlin is now more concerned about stability. If there is tension in different groups of voters, then it must be channeled into something so that it does not spill over into large-scale protest actions.

We know that those who took part in the latest protest actions are a “hodgepodge”. There are a lot of groups that are not for Navalny… But they want their political views and worldviews regarding some processes to be institutionalized as well. This construction will be stable. The Greens came out to protest actions, suddenly they were given the opportunity to vote for their own party, this party becomes parliamentary – and they leave the street.

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