By Henry Steck, International News Writer
Vladimir Putin further solidified his control over Russia in recent national parliamentary elections. Results posted on September 19 were impressive for Putin’s party, United Russia. It secured a dominant 54.3 percent of the vote, or an absolute majority in the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, with 343 of 450 seats. The party received 49 percent of the vote in the 2011 parliamentary elections.
With a historically low voter turnout of just 48 percent, United Russia secured a record amount of seats in the Duma with 4.4 million less votes than it received in 2011. There was strong turnout in rural areas where support for Putin is strong.
“Voting against the authority in more traditional, rural areas is still something of a revolution,” said Abbas Gallyamov, an advisor to several candidates, to The New York Times. He continued, “Opposition parties can only succeed when voter turnout is strong.” Both opposition parties failed to receive the minimum 5 percent of the vote necessary to obtain any Duma seats.
Amidst significant international controversy, voters in Crimea, once part of Ukraine but seized by Russia in 2014, cast their votes for the first time in the election.
Putin called it a vote for stability, telling Russia Today, “the situation in Russia is complicated now, people feel this and want the stability in politics and society that we are talking about…”
While Russia’s strong geopolitical moves abroad have helped Putin’s popularity, the country’s struggling economy has cost him in the polls. However, Putin’s approval rating still stands at an impressive 82 percent.
In 2011, significant vote rigging led to protests. Former Central Election Commission head, Vladimir Churov, was even dubbed the ‘wizard’ for bending numbers to support Putin. To avoid another crisis, the Russian Federation appointed Ella Pamfilova, a respected human rights activist, as head of the Central Election Commission. Pamfilova told BBC during the election that she was “fully confident” that the elections were “proceeding in a quite legitimate way”.
Ilkka Kanerva, a representative sent by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the elections, told Reuters that while the OSCE saw some improvements in transparency of administration, it also noticed that “Legal restrictions on basic rights continue to be a problem.” He also said that “if Russia is to live up to
its democratic commitments, greater space is needed for debate and civic engagement.” There were numerous reports from around the country of carousel voting and other types of electoral fraud.
Vladimir Putin has not yet stated whether he intends to run in the next round of elections in 2018, but if he were to win, he would be in power until 2024.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.
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