Monday, September 20, 2021

Russian election results

 Russia held elections yesterday. The results are as follows. Note that this is only about 90% of ballots counted.

I've been asked if I believe these are the results, and I do. Much of the unfairness in systems like this - which countries like Russia and Iran use, and, countries like Serbia and Chile have used in the past during their dictatorship periods - is that it is actually possible for the government to lose, it just usually requires more than half of the vote to oppose them.

2011 is a good example, Outside of this election, Russian elections tend to actually report the number of ballots cast. In 2011 it seems likely that Putin's party had indeed won a plurality, but not a majority. Keep in mind that the various parties in Russia hold various positions on the "Kremlin" axis. Many in the west see things in a Pro vs Anti light, but in reality, most voters in Russia ignore that axis. Parties like Just Russia are just as happy to operate under a Pro-Kremlin system as they would be to operate under an Anti-Kremlin system, and so, do not rock the boat. 

The Kremlin has also been accused of running spoiler parties. IE Parties that are similar to anti-Kremlin parties, but, are Pro-Kremlin, with the objective of taking away votes from parties that are not supportive enough of the political status quo. For example, Russia has two "Green" parties, one that is Anti Kremlin and one that is Pro Kremlin. For ease of reading, I've lumped the various Anti Kremlin and various "Spoiler" parties into one. Regardless, none of them won any seats. 

Most of the "cheating" done under these political systems is done before we even get to the stage where people are voting in the election. Parties are shut out of media access, and played as hostile. Even if every vote has been counted as it has been cast, the 'propaganda state' has ensured that people simply do not even want to vote for certain parties. Yabloko is the main party that suffers from this. It is a liberal, anti-kremlin, and pro-west party. In a system that is fair, and has been fair for all of this time, I would expect them to have around 15%-25% of the vote. However, after so many years of being played down in the current system, they would struggle to reach 10% of even if the system suddenly became what we in the west would consider fair. 

As to the results,

The Communists finish second, again. The party's vote is widespread, and as a result, they've only managed to win a handful of constituencies. This is not a sign of cheating, simply that the party has widespread support. It would, in fact, be expected to have widespread support, as, this is what we saw happen to Communist parties in the former eastern bloc. If their support was patterned more like a 'normal' party, they could have been expected to win an additional 20 or so constituency seats. Regardless, they've gained about 10 seats from last election.

The Liberal Democrats are the biggest losers. The name of the party might be misleading. The party is extremely nationalistic. Their leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is Trump before Trump was Trump, but more racist. Zhirinovsky founded his party during the Soviet era, when the Soviets decided it was time for an opposition party, but one that had been carefully crafted. They've lost half of their seats this election.

Just Russia has managed to remain somewhat stable, gaining perhaps 3 seats. I still view them as one of the intended successor parties should United Russia ever lose. They are not pro-kremlin puppets, but they are also not anti-kremlin and thus wouldn't necessarily break apart the 'kremlin system', and would instead 'replace' United Russia as 'the' Kremlin. At least, this is what Putin expects. One can never tell. Regardless, the party remains where it was, more or less, at the last election.

New People are the big winners. The party is, as its name suggests, new. They are shaping up as a moderate but conservative alternative to Just Russia. Their position on the pro-kremlin spectrum is unclear, but, they are matching the pattern of the founding of Just Russia. That being a "spoiler party" seed that grows into a kremlin-neutral alternative. It is always possible for the party to shift on this spectrum, as, it has the potential to either become more pro-kremlin, or, even anti-kremlin. Additionally, it has elements that are liberalish in nature, and could move from the centre-right to the centre-left with the right circumstances. 

United Russia, Putin's Party, wins the election as expected. They look set to take about 320 or so seats, down 20 or so from the last election. They will thus retain a supermajority needed for constitutional amendments. They sit at 49.5% of the vote, but, could manage to break 50% with the final few votes to count. This puts them in a good position to continue building the kind of Russia that Putin wishes to see. In fact, with the lack of Communist gains and the shrinking of the Liberal Democrats, they stand in perhaps a better position than before, even if they've lost seats, with Just Russia and New People ready to step in should United Russia do something too unpopular. It just remains to be seen if these latter two parties can be kept from straying too far from Putin's laid out path.

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