Frolov’s Questions of the Week
Where does this leave Russia’s political system? Why was it necessary to engage in practices that might delegitimize the entire political process in order to secure a couple more seats for United Russia, which would have won the election anyway, albeit not with such astounding numbers? Why did Medvedev choose to defend United Russia’s fabricated results, instead of using the stolen election as a pretext to drive through his democratization agenda? What implications will it all have for United Russia and its grip on Russia’s political system? Does it reflect the voters’ dissatisfaction with the party of power, or is it just a consequence of the electorate’s apathy and lack of interest in representative government? Is it a sign of Putin’s political consensus coming apart at the seams, or is it just a temporary phenomenon that demonstrates the bureaucratic nature of Russia’s political system and its dependency on government bureaucracy for winning elections?
I’d like to try and post my own answers to some of these questions, rather than copying what everyone else says.
First, this makes both the system, and United Russia look de-legitimate in the eyes of democracies. But I am not sure that it delegitimises the system within Russia. I do not think that what happened means anything negative for United Russia. For better or for worse, UR is here to stay.
As to voter apathy, I would venture to say that the lack of public protest proves that, in general, the Russian people are resigned to what they see as their fate.
But why? This is the issue that I just cannot quite wrap my mind around. They were already going to win. What good does it do them to gain those few extra seats? I do not think that Putin (or Surkov, for that matter) sat a bunch of poll workers/elections officials down, and said, “Okay, we want 66% of the vote. Do whatever you have to to make sure that we reach that number.” More than likely certain officials did it because they felt like it was expected of them. It’s like the journalist, or editor who decides not to write or publish a piece because it makes the administration look bad. No one is necessarily breathing down their neck, and threatening to fire them if they do not comply. But there is an expectation of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to the Kremlin. And you keep to those standards because you do not want to rock the boat.
Why did Medvedev defend United Russia? I repeat: the President is still too weak to be effective in any kind of protest. Even if Zhirinovsky, and the others were sincere in their protests, what would Medvedev gain from their support? Nothing that he wants. The people who walked, unfortunately, are marginal. It would be too difficult to form a consensus among them, and therefore would not be worth it for Medvedev.
With the final question, I would go with the latter rather than the former. This was “a temporary phenomenon that demonstrates the bureaucratic nature of Russia’s political system and its dependency on government bureaucracy for winning elections”. Basically, I am a fan of Danila’s theory that the walkout was something other than what it appeared to be.