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And They're Off Duma Campaign Officially Begins

Russian Duma elections began today but with a 7% electoral threshold few parties will get in.
By Aryeh ben Hayim
First Publish: 8/30/2011, 6:23 PM

The election campaign for the Russian Duma has begun. Russian president Dimitry Medvedev signed a decree fixing the election to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, for the 4th of December. Parties need to get 7% of the vote to qualify and in the outgoing State Duma only four parties were represented. However, in token liberalization, parties securing 6% and 5% of the vote will receive two and one seats respectively.

The four privileged parties are United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and Just Russia. With the exception of the Communist Party that is allowed to run as an ineffective foil the other parties are pro-regime. The only real question is whether United Russia, despite the recent unflattering polls, can still achieve a majority that will allow it to pass constitutional amendments without consulting other parties.

United Russia's opponents have claimed fraud and discrimination in the past but the electoral commission has always rejected the complaints.

Commission head Vladimir Churov, stated in an interview: “Two factors determine the legitimacy of elections, the most important being the turnout.” At around 60 percent and constantly increasing, Russia’s turnout tends to be higher than in some European countries and the US. The voters in the latter countries are not subjected to positive and negative inducements.

Sometimes the figures add up to too much, as in districts where the turnout actually exceded 100%.

The second criterion, according to Churov, is “parliamentary representation, i.e. the percentage of votes cast by the total number of voters for candidates who get elected.”

Churov intends to maintain the restrictions on the number of outside observers who will be allowed to monitor the elections. The policy towards the former Soviet Union is discriminatory, he complains.

The OSCE sends different numbers of observers to different countries: “Six to Bulgaria, 11 to the UK, 60 to the U.S. presidential election in 2008.” Churov said that the OSCE sent 2,762 observers to Ukraine’s presidential election in 2004.