03/12/2007 - Results
As forecast in all opinion polls Unified Russia (ER), the party of President Vladimir Putin won the general elections that took place on 2nd December. He won 64,2% of the vote and as during the general election on 7th December 2003 he achieved his best result in the Caucasus. Grozny, the Chechen capital voted 99% in favour of Unified Russia with a 90% turn out rate!
Three other parties will be represented in the Duma, the lower house of Parliament i.e. a greater number than forecast in the polls. These are the Communist Party (KPRF) which won 11.6% of the vote, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), nationalist and populist led by Vladimir Jirinovski, which won 8.2% of the vote and finally Fair Russia (SR) – 7,8% of the vote - a leftwing movement founded on 28th October 2006 after the merger between Rodina and the Life Party (PJ) and the Pensioners' Party (PP) whose leader is the present president of the Council of the Federation, Serguey Mironov. Fair Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party both support Vladimir Putin.
A minimum of 7% of the vote is required to enter the Duma.
The rest of the opposition has been marginalised and one might even say wiped out. Yabloko (Apple) a liberal party led by Grigori Yavlinskti won 1.6% of the vote and the Union of Right Forces (SPS) led by Nikita Belykh, 1%.
Turn out rose to 59,29%, a higher result than the one recorded during the general election on 7th December 2003 (around + 6 points).
The President of the Federation of Russia, Vladimir Putin has therefore been successful in his plan which aimed to turn this election into personal approbation and his manner of governing. The high turn out rate confirms the election that was easily won by Unified Russia.
Workers, students and patients in hospitals say however they were put under extreme pressure to fulfil their civic duty since the ruling power feared that many Russians would abstain to show that there was no choice in the general election and at the same time to demonstrate their opposition to Vladimir Putin. Some workers created a blog in which they talk of the pressure they were put under (http://vibory-light.livejournal.com/
). Around 450,000 policemen and soldiers were given orders to maintain security in the polling stations. In addition to this President Putin should be happy that in all there are four parties in the new Duma thereby giving the impression of democracy and real political competition.
"These general elections were a referendum for the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin and I think we can safely say that victory is his," said the chairman of Fair Russia, president of the Duma and former interior minister, Boris Grizlov when the results were announced. "Please don't think that everything has already been decided," read the title of the newspaper Rossiiskaia Gazeta the day before the election publishing like many other dailies the appeal to vote launched to the Russians on 29th November by Vladimir Putin. The latter asked voters to guarantee the continuity of the policy that has already been started, recalling the "humiliation, dependency and disintegration," of the 1990's.
Just as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) decided to boycott the monitoring of the elections pointing to the obstacles that had been established by the Russian ruling power, Vladimir Putin declared on 29th November: "Once more we have information that this withdrawal was decided on the advice of the American State Department." After having compared the opposition representatives to "jackals" who were seeking financial support "from foreign embassies," the Russian president also spoke in favour of increasing national defence "to discourage those who might be tempted to stick their "snotty" noses in our business."
His televised speech was repeated on 30th November. According to a report published on 13th November by the Centre for the Protection of Journalists, the first TV channel (State) dedicated 96.5% of its airtime to the Russian President and his party, Unified Russia, during the first month of the electoral campaign.
When the results were first announced the leader of the Communist Party, Guenady Zuganov said that these elections were "the most irresponsible and the dirtiest in the post-Soviet era, (...) Although under the former President of the Federation, Boris Yeltsin, there were two means to cheat in the election, i.e. by intimidation and the falsification of slips – today there were about fifteen way to attract and deceive voters."
Many infringements were pointed out. On Sunday evening the Presidency of the USA called on the Russian authorities to investigate accusations of electoral fraud put forward by the opposition forces. "The first information from Russia includes accusations of electoral fraud. We demand that the Russian authorities enquire into these statements," declared American Security spokesperson from the National Council, Gordon Johndroe.
During a press conference on 28th November Guenady Zuganov tried to revive concerns raised by Putin's government, maintaining that the Russia president was preparing "an authoritarian coup d'Etat" to stay in power when his mandate came to an end in March. "The Kremlin needs the Communist Party because it is a good way to control the vote of the discontented. This suits the communist leaders quite nicely. They enjoy privileges and belong to the political elite without being responsible for political decisions. This is totally beneficial to them: they enjoy a status with no responsibility," maintains Maria Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre of Moscow.
These general elections aimed to prepare for the presidential election on 2nd March next and for Vladimir Putin's future. "Victory in December opens to the way to victory in March," repeated the Russian president during the electoral campaign. "Russia is about to return to a single party system," maintains Grigori Yavlinski, leader of Yabloko. "Forms of power can change, the spirit stays the same: a pyramid dominated by the czar, the Secretary General or the President of the Federation, call it what you will," stressed sociologist Olga Krichtanovskaïa.
"These are not really general elections. Everything has been organised for the plebiscite of Vladimir Putin and his regime," said Russian specialist Marie Mendras from the French daily Liberation on 27th November. Without any opposition or the freedom of speech the Duma has simply become a House of Registration.
According to a poll by Levada, 65.5% of Russians believe that the general elections were not fair. "Only 25% of the voters think that the composition of the Duma will depend on the vote but people are prepared to vote in spite of that, out of habit or out of fear that everything will collapse if Vladimir Putin leaves," indicates Dmitri Volkov, a sociologist at the institute.
However whilst Unified Russia and Vladimir Putin were guaranteed to win, the authorities, who feared a high abstention rate, increased their efforts to convince voters to turn out on 2nd December during the last days of the electoral campaign. In addition to this the Kremlin repressed the opposition forces violently. According to some observers of Russian political circles this violence proves that there are internal fights occurring within the ruling power. "This feverishness might betray fights between clans within the leading elites," indicates Marie Mendras.
"There can be no more doubt about the fact that Vladimir Putin intends to stay in power one way or another. The question is: in what position?" asks Marie Mendras
Many political analysts believe that since the Russian Constitution prohibits the present head of State to run for a third consecutive mandate, Prime Minister Viktor Zoubkov will run and be elected President on 2nd March next. The present President will become Prime Minister. Then Viktor Zubkov may leave his post at the end of his term in office in 2012 for health reasons for example, thereby enabling a return to power on the part of Vladimir Putin. He would be interim President for a time then quite legally he might run in the presidential election again for two more mandates. This might very well be for periods longer than four years. Since the Russian President has indicated several times that the present term in office seemed too short for a presidential regime.
One thing is certain: the electoral campaign for the presidential election is now open in Russia. Unified Russia has incidentally said that it would appoint its candidate for the election on 2nd March during its upcoming congress that will take place before the end of 2007.
Translated by Helen LEVY
Results of the General Elections on 2nd December in Russia
Turnout (at 7 p.m): 59,29%