Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Reactions to Russian Elections

Some preliminary thoughts:

Turnout appears to be normal--at least no signs, from what I've been reading, that there were massive boycotts of the polls, at least in the major cities, where one would expect opposition groups to have some influence.

Is the "60 percent threshhold" for United Russia really a definitive marker--that is, that anything less than that represents a tacit defeat for Putin? What I find more interesting--and perhaps a sign that polling data does remain somewhat accurate--is that Putin's personal popularity ratings do not transfer automatically to support for United Russia, meaning that there are at least 15-20 percent of voters who express support for the president but aren't necessarily casting votes for United Russia. I would assume that some of them will cast votes for the Communists or other parties--but certainly I think by now, in contrast to 2003, there is much more alignment between active support (or at least passive acceptance) of Putin and support for United Russia.

How the Kremlin's attempt to create a managed two party system around United and Fair Russia didn't work, but there is a silver lining: if the Communists become the main opposition party this guarantees that most people with property--even if they aren't thriled with UR--won't line up behind a Communist party that is still largely unreformed in its ideology, unlike the ex-communists of central and eastern Europe.

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